University of Sheffield students build and test additively manufactured liquid rocket engine

July 13, 2023

Students from the University of Sheffield have built and successfully tested an additively manufactured liquid rocket engine, said to be the most powerful student-built engine of its type (Courtesy University of Sheffield)
Students from the University of Sheffield have built and successfully tested an additively manufactured liquid rocket engine, said to be the most powerful student-built engine of its type (Courtesy University of Sheffield)

The UK’s University of Sheffield has reported that students have built and successfully tested an additively manufactured liquid rocket engine, said to be the most powerful student-built engine of its type.

As part of the Race to Space competition, teams from various UK universities participated in testing rocket engines they had built over the past two academic years, with the competition believed to have set an unofficial world record for the number of different hybrid/liquid rocket engines hot-fired for the first time on one site in one week.

Unlike a jet engine, the liquid rocket uses both fuel and oxidiser, rather than breathing in oxygen. It is also the first engine that is regen-cooled, meaning that it uses fuel to cool the combustion chamber before it is burnt, increasing the engine’s efficiency and reducing its weight.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter
Sign up

Only a few liquid rocket engines have been made by students throughout Europe, and even fewer regen engines have been made worldwide. Until now, none had been made in the UK using Additive Manufacturing and none had been as powerful as this engine.

The students reportedly built the engine over the past two years as part of the University of Sheffield’s Space Initiative, a programme aimed at helping STEM students apply their skills to tackle challenges in the space industry and develop careers in the field. Their goal is to one day use the engine to power their own rockets to the edge of space and become the first UK student-led team to cross the Kármán line, which borders Earth’s atmosphere at 62 miles above sea level.

Engineering graduate and former Sunride Project Manager, Dana Arabiyat, shared, “Two years and countless hours of hard work later, the successful hot-fire of our engine got us jumping for the most unforgettable five seconds of our lives! This achievement is a testament to the incredible talent and commitment of our Project SunFire team members and leads, and to the tireless mentorship and supervision of Dr Alistair John.”

Dr Alistair John, Deputy Director of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Sheffield, who supervised the team, added, “Additive manufacturing (3D printing) is increasingly being used by rocket companies such as SpaceX as it allows you to build complex, lightweight custom geometries that would not be possible using traditional methods. For example, the cooling channels in our engine, which stop the engine melting despite the 2,000°C combustion temperature, can only be made using 3D printing.”

“Extra-curricular activities such as Sunride and the Race to Space initiative are hugely important as they allow students to apply the knowledge from their degree and push the boundaries of what they can achieve. It is hugely important for the UK space sector that we give our students hands-on, practical experience to develop the skills industry needs,” John added.

The engine was test fired at Airborne Engineering at the Westcott Space Cluster and additively manufactured at the Satellite Applications Catapult with the build process optimisation work done under the MAPP EPRSC future manufacturing hub.

More information on the Sunride team

More information on the University of Sheffield’s Space Initiative

Download Metal AM magazine

In the latest issue of Metal AM magazine

Download PDF

Extensive AM industry news coverage, as well as the following exclusive deep-dive articles:

  • Metal powders in Additive Manufacturing: An exploration of sustainable production, usage and recycling
  • Inside Wayland Additive: How innovation in electron beam PBF is opening new markets for AM
  • An end-to-end production case study: Leveraging data-driven machine learning and autonomous process control in AM
  • Consolidation, competition, and the cost of certification: Insight from New York’s AM Strategies 2024
  • Scandium’s impact on the Additive Manufacturing of aluminium alloys
  • AM for medical implants: An analysis of the impact of powder reuse in Powder Bed Fusion

The world of metal AM to your inbox

Don't miss any new issue of Metal AM magazine, and get the latest industry news. Sign up to our twice weekly newsletter.

Sign up

Discover our magazine archive…

The free to access Metal Additive Manufacturing magazine archive offers unparalleled insight into the world of metal Additive Manufacturing from a commercial and technological perspective through:

  • Reports on visits to leading metal AM part manufacturers and industry suppliers
  • Articles on technology and application trends
  • Information on materials developments
  • Reviews of key technical presentations from the international conference circuit
  • International industry news

All past issues are available to download as free PDFs or view in your browser.

Browse the archive

Looking for AM machines, metal powders or part manufacturing services?

Discover suppliers of these and more in our comprehensive advertisers’ index and buyer’s guide, available in the back of Metal AM magazine.

  • AM machines
  • Process monitoring & calibration
  • Heat treatment & sintering
  • HIP systems & services
  • Pre- & post-processing technology
  • Powders, powder production and analysis
  • Part manufacturers
  • Consulting, training & market data
View online
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap