Spending on space exploration is booming. We have seen many ambitious private endeavors come onto the scene in the last few years, from building and launching satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for telecommunications, to prepping crews and cargo to go to the International Space Station (ISS) and even developing programs allowing fee-paying tourists to go beyond Earth’s atmosphere, it is all happening now. The truth is that reduced costs and growing competition are letting private firms become involved in this new space race, which unlike the previous one, that started 62 years ago with Sputnik, is driven by more than just a need to dominate space. For companies offering satellite launch capabilities to private clients and national governments, the time has never been better, over 70 countries now have space programs and only a dozen of them have any sort of launch capability, the same goes for companies. This is where rocket startups like Launcher come to play.
The Brooklyn-based firm has been developing what it says is the world’s largest 3D printed liquid rocket engine combustion chamber in a single piece. The E-2 engine, which was made in Germany by AMCM using its specialized M4K printer, has been tested many times at the company’s test facility on Long Island’s Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant (where the US jetfighter F-14 Tomcat used to be assembled), in New York. There, the Launcher team works out of a deserted airplane runway where they are ingeniously using shipping containers to test their engines. But this is just the beginning of Launcher’s decade long plan to build a 65-foot-tall rocket that will send small satellites to orbit.
Based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, the company was formed in March 2017 by Max Haot, an internet entrepreneur who created the video streaming company Livestream. After selling it to Vimeo in 2017, he chose to focus on getting Launcher rockets to orbit.
“I always had a personal desire to stretch my career to the aerospace industry and contribute to space exploration,” Haot told 3DPrint.com. “I was just coming out of my last entrepreneurial adventure with Livestream and that’s when I thought about it: why not move to space? After some research, it was clear that there were a lot of opportunities in the launch industry and that’s how I got the startup going. Everyone in the team has a general interest in space exploration and by providing the rockets, propulsion and 3D printed engines we are offering a platform for satellites to make life on Earth better. I think it’s a great start.”
The goal is very ambitious and very rare. Beyond space agencies, only a few companies have already successfully sent rockets to space with payloads, including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Rocket Lab, but they are not the only ones trying to tap the smaller private satellite launch market, small rockets are a crucial part of the growing space industry.
“Small satellite makers were basically catching a ride on the bigger rockets, accounting for one percent or less of the payload (and revenue), so they couldn’t choose when the rocket launched or even where it was going because the main customer was taking up a five million dollar satellite and calling all the shots. But now, these smaller rockets, that cost less than 10 million dollars, can allow companies to send their satellites to space quicker. They can either buy the full rocket which would accommodate between 10 to 40 small satellites, or they can rideshare with other companies, but still have a 10 to 20 percent of the revenue (meaning they get to have a say in the launch),” he went on.
Since Sputnik, around 8,378 satellites have been sent to space according to the Index of Objects Launched into Outer Space maintained by the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA). These days there are 4,857 satellites currently orbiting the planet, but the majority are not even active, with only 1,957 actually operational (and they also will have a limited lifetime). Now there are over 20,000 proposals for new satellites in the next five years, that means we are looking at a market that will change dramatically reflecting a growing trend for startups and customers to become more involved in space technology.
In order to start testing flights by 2023, Haot began developing the E-2 engine, which will eventually be part of a four-engine 65-feet high rocket that can deliver small CubeSats (satellites that can weigh as little as 10 pounds) to orbit.
Haot claims Launcher’s E-2 engine will be the highest performance engine in the small satellite launcher industry, with the largest thrust, lowest propellant consumption and lowest cost per-pound of thrust. Consuming the least amount of propellant for the maximum amount of thrust, he expects to be able to take twice more payload than the competition for the same rocket size. To do this, the company has focused exclusively on engine development and they don’t want to start building the rocket until E-2 tests prove to work perfectly.
One of the ways Haot expects E-2 to reach its high-performance target is by using 3D printing in a copper alloy which reduces cost, complexity, and manufacturing lead time for most parts, including the combustion chamber, injector, and turbopump.
“We decided we wanted a 10-ton force (22,000 pounds) of thrust engine instead of a smaller one, but we didn’t want to end up welding together different sections of the combustion chamber (the main part of the engine). So the problem in the 3D printing industry was that we couldn’t find a big enough 3D printer for the job, so as part of our roadmap we decided to wait until we found a 3D printer big enough to do it in one print. We worked with EOS, AMCM, and copper, which is the best alloy for a combustion chamber, leveraging a custom printer and finally successfully producing a large single-part 3D printed copper combustion chamber.”
The E-2 liquid rocket engine chamber was created on the M4K 3D printer, a customized EOS M400 series machine that can fabricate parts up to 45x45x100cm. The Launcher team explained that 3D printing both the rocket chamber and nozzle together as one part allows for the highest performance in cooling, along with reducing part count and complexity in production. Functioning as part of the EOS group, AMCM produces customized AM machines, and Launcher is the first customer of the AMCM M4K.
In 2018 the company tested their 1/40th size development engine E-1 (Propellants: LOX/RP-1, Regen cooling, printed on the EOS M290 in Inconel 718, in three parts, 500-pound thrust, augmented spark ignition). The E-1 helps them validate the design of the 3D printed combustion chamber and internal cooling channels before applying in it to the 40 times larger E-2. 3D printed rocket engines and components. Last February AMCM unveiled a prototype from a Launcher design in Aluminum, which they believe is the largest single part combustion chamber ever 3D printed, and this month AMCM is developing the final part for testing in copper. That means next September, the AMCM machine and engineers will deliver a full-size engine in copper ready to begin the test-firing by the end of the year.
“We have done a lot of subscale testing (over 100 times) to prove that we are able to reach the combustion performance that we want for our full scale engine,” Haot said.
Before scaling to the full-size E-2 engine, Launcher is proving its design and 3D printed materials on the subscale version Engine-1 or E-1. The company claims that thanks to the design, the use of 3D printed copper alloy, and the unique liquid oxygen cooling system, their E-1 subscale engine is so efficient (over 98%) that it produces a blue exhaust plume—unprecedented for kerosene engines. It was proven for over 15 minutes of test time at the highest performance combustion mixture ratio between liquid oxygen and kerosene.
“We expect the first test flights in 2023, but will only become fully commercial and profitable after a few tests, in 2026. Right now there is not enough supply of small launching capacity, so there is a backlog. With tens of thousands of proposals for new small and nano-sized satellites to be launched in the next 5 years, the demand is certainly not the issue. The questions we need to answer are: whether we can be competitive, come to market and reach orbit. We expect to have a higher performance rocket that could eventually carry more payload than our competitors and with the same rocket size. In 2026, if we do four flights per year we could break even, however we are targeting 12 flights,” he went on.
For now, the company is looking to capitalize on the demand for small satellites by building a rocket that will focus on sending the smaller payloads to orbit. However, they claim to be building what they hope “will be a long-lasting aerospace company”. Suggesting that “the small satellite launcher is our first product”, and that they would like to “contribute to space exploration in general”.
Launcher’s rocket is priced to that smaller market, with plans to sell missions for about $10 million per launch, and customers that hope to operate within LEO and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), because the higher they go, the lighter the payload they can take. One of the big customers for a small satellite launch is the US government, especially NASA, the Air Force and the Department of Defense since they have stated their desire to miniaturize all of their satellites. But Haot knows that the first step is to develop the capability and reach orbit, after that, who knows, perhaps they can send payloads to the moon or even further. But we’ll have to wait a bit, at least until their test run in 2023.
A Note On Sustainability in Space
For those of you who are wondering how whether an industry in LEO will have a long-term negative effect on our life on this planet, Haot suggests otherwise, saying that today rocket companies are being responsible.
“There are inactive satellites, rocket parts and even the debris of satellite collision in space. Some of these little objects reenter, in the LEO orbit they might start to reenter after five years but farther away in geostationary orbit the lifetime for natural deorbit might be a thousand years. That means there is a graveyard orbit, and the satellite manufacturer has the responsibility to remove it, so it doesn’t occupy some of the useful geostationary orbit space,” explained Haot.
Guidelines issued by the inter-agency space debris coordination committee (IADC) demand LEO satellites to deorbit within 25 years after the end of operations. But Haot proposes that if someone launches a satellite they will include a deorbiting capability designed to help mitigate the growing space-junk problem.
“If we look at all the nanosats that are being proposed, they are in low enough orbit that they mostly don’t have propulsion, but its part of the design that they will reenter five years at most, by the location of LEO its less of a problem due to automatic deorbiting, but for further orbit it would be great to have more regulation, so that when satellites are not being used they have to deorbit. Launcher wants to be participants in this industry and ensure the second stage deorbit, which means you can carry a little bit less payload so you have propellant to deorbit, but we know it is the right thing to do,” he concluded.
[Images: Launcher, AMCM and Tobias Hase]
We’re beginning with an aerospace 3D printing story in 3D Printing News Briefs today, then moving on to news about some upcoming industry events and finishing with a little business. Launcher tested its 3D printed rocket engine on an important date in history. DuPont will be introducing new semi-crystalline 3D printing products at RAPID + TCT, and Nanofabrica has offered to 3D print micro parts at no cost for interested companies attending the annual euspen conference. Ira Green Inc. used Rize technology to transform its production process, GOM is now part of the Zeiss Group, and the Ivaldi Group received its ISO 9001:2015 certification.
Launcher Tests 3D Printed Rocket Engine
New York startup Launcher, which uses EOS technology to create 3D printed components for metal rocket engines, has completed many firing tests with these parts over the last year and a half. Recently, on the anniversary of the date the first human left Earth to go into space, the startup announced the results of the latest test.
Launcher’s founder and CEO Max Haot posted on his LinkedIn account that the E-1 copper bi-metal rocket engine, which was 3D printed on the EOS M290, broke the startup’s combustion pressure record at 625 psi, mr 2.5. It will be interesting to see how the engine performs on its next test.
DuPont to Introduce New Semi-Crystalline Materials
At next month’s RAPID + TCT in Detroit, DuPont Transportation & Advanced Polymers (T&AP), a DowDuPont Specialty Products Division business, will be launching an expansion to its 3D printing portfolio: advanced, high-performance semi-crystalline materials, which will give customers more manufacturing agility and open new opportunities to lower costs while increasing production.
Jennifer L. Thompson, Ph.D., R&D programs manager for DuPont T&AP, will be presenting a technical paper about the materials during the event as part of the Material Development and Characterization session. During her presentation at 10:15 am on May 23rd, Thompson will discuss alternative 3D printing methods, like pellet extrusion modeling, in addition to highlighting new engineering materials and talking about tailored material testing programs. Thompson and other DuPont employees will be at DuPont T&AP’s booth #552 at RAPID to answer questions about the company’s 3D printing materials.
Nanofabrica Offers Free 3D Printing Services for euspen Attendees
Last month, Israeli 3D printing startup Nanofabrica announced the commercial launch of its micro resolution 3D printing platform. In order to show off the system’s abilities to potential customers, Nanofabrica has made an enticing offer to attendees at next month’s euspen conference and exhibition in Spain: the startup will print parts for interested companies at no charge. Then, the parts printed on the new micro AM platform will be presented to them at the event, which focuses on the latest technological developments that are growing innovation at the micron and sub-micron levels.
“It’s quite simple really. We believe that the best way to prove what our AM system can do, how high the resolution and accuracy of the parts we make are, is to manufacture parts for attendees,” Jon Donner, the CEO of Nanofabrica explained. “Registered attendees are welcome to send us their files, and we will examine and print them. That is how confident we are that you will be amazed by the capabilities of our system, and this we feel will mean that we can forge meaningful relationships with manufacturers that will endure into the future.”
Rize 3D Printing Transformed Company’s Production Process
Rhode Island-based IRA Green Inc. (IGI), a full-service manufacturer and distributor of unique uniform items earned and worn by military personnel around the world, recently turned to RIZE and its 3D printing capabilities in order to manufacture small fixtures for its tool shop. The company’s products are in high demand, but lead times were growing longer due to bottlenecks and 8 hours of work for each $300 fixture. Precision is also important for these parts, which is why IGI decided to turn to the RIZE ONE hybrid 3D printer. According to a new case study, IGI’s design team uses the printer every day to manufacture accurate fixtures in just 50 minutes for $2.00 a part. Using the RIZE ONE, which has the unique capability of adding ink markings to parts for verification, the company has been able to standardize its nails and molds, which helped lead to an ROI in less than five months.
IGI’s Manufacturing Manager, Bill Yehle said, “Implementing RIZE 3D printing as part of a strategic process shift has completely transformed our production process.
“We have realized an 80% time savings in setup and changeover alone using RIZE and virtually eliminated errors.”
ZEISS Group Acquires GOM
In an effort to expand its industrial metrology and quality assurance portfolio, the ZEISS Group, a technology enterprise operating in the optics and optoelectronics fields, has acquired GOM, which provides hardware and software for automated 3D coordinate measuring technology. By combining GOM’s optical 3D measuring technology with its own products, ZEISS could expand market access, and create new opportunities, for its Industrial Quality & Research segment. Once the transaction is complete, which should happen soon, GOM will become part of this ZEISS segment, while the legal form of its companies in Germany and elsewhere will stay the same. The financial details of the transaction will not be discussed publicly.
“Our growth strategy expressly mentions the targeted acquisition of highly innovative solutions, technologies and companies, which can reach their full potential as part of the ZEISS Group. By acquiring GOM and thereby expanding our solutions portfolio, we are bolstering the leading position of our Industrial Quality & Research segment and will be able to offer even better solutions for our customers. This is entirely in keeping with our corporate strategy, which is focused on our customers’ success,” said Dr. Michael Kaschke, President & CEO of ZEISS.
Ivaldi Group Awarded ISO 9001:2015 Certification
California startup Ivaldi Group, which uses 3D printing and metal fabrication solutions to provide in-port parts on-demand services for the maritime, mining, offshore, and construction industries has become ISO 9001:2015 certified in less than ten months. This standard, which is certifies quality managements systems that focus on customer satisfaction, continuous improvement, and active involvement of employees and management in a process-based approach, is the first step in the certification process that’s required to certify specific products. This proves Ivaldi’s commitment to constantly improving itself.
“Certifying our quality management system has helped us to structure our processes to create a solid foundation. This will allow us to improve efficiency, productivity, and traceability,” said Anna D’Alessio, Quality Management Specialist of Ivaldi Group. “Global quality management systems are important to align processes and optimize operations across facilities. This certification proves our commitment to meet requirements of stakeholders affected by our work.”
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We’re starting with a little bit of business news in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, before moving on to a new material and a software update. PostProcess is partnering with CUBRC, and both Launcher and 3YOURMIND have announced new executives. ElogioAM released its new Facilian HT material, and Simplify3D has a software update.
PostProcess Technologies Partnering with CUBRC
This week, PostProcess Technologies, which provides automated and intelligent post-processing solutions for 3D printed parts, announced that it was partnering with CUBRC in order to accelerate its patent-pending 3D printing software platforms. PostProcess will leverage CUBRC’s Heartwood Analytics machine learning suite in order to advance its work in fully digitizing 3D printing. Its AUTOMAT3D and CONNECT3D platforms both use a data science approach to 3D printing, which helps improve performance while also reducing the amount of guesswork and manual steps customers have to deal with during support removal and surface finishing. By using Heartwood Analytics, these platforms will be even more efficient.
“PostProcess was founded on software as the first component of our solution. We’ve known since the beginning that data analytics was an essential part of doing data science at scale,” said Daniel Hutchinson, the Founder and CTO of PostProcess Technologies. “That’s why we’ve chosen CUBRC for its experience and expertise in data extraction, alignment, analysis and systems optimization technologies to enhance and expedite our post-printing software platforms.”
Launcher Hires Chief Designer
Launcher, a startup making 3D printed rocket engines to help deliver small satellites to orbit, has hired Igor Nikishchenko as its Chief Designer. Nikishchenko has over three decades of experience with high-performance liquid rocket engine development, and was most recently working in Italy for Avio, which is an important contractor for the Ariane and Vega launchers developed by the European Space Agency. He will work at Launcher’s main office in New York City, and will help the startup achieve its first goal of developing the least expensive, highest performing liquid rocket engine for small launch vehicles: the 3D printed Launcher E-2, which features 22,000-lbf thrust and a closed cycle liquid rocket engine.
“We’re not doing science here, not trying to make a breakthrough. We’re trying to use a proven high-performance engine design, applied to a smaller size,” said Max Haot, the Founder and CEO of Launcher.
According to Haot, Nikishchenko will have a role similar to that of a chief engineer or chief technology officer, and will be responsible for all of the startup’s engineering and design efforts.
3YOURMIND Names Head of Global Marketing
Software company 3YOURMIND announced that it has recruited additive manufacturing veteran Stefan Ritt to join the company as its new Head of Global Marketing, in order to continue serving its expanding international customer base. Ritt has spent over 20 years working in the AM industry on a global scale, most recently as the VP of Global Marketing and Communications for SLM Solutions, and has served as the Chairman of the Additive Manufacturing in Aerospace work group at the German Institute for Standardization (DIN) since 2015. Throughout 2019, 3YOURMIND plans to increase its presence in both Europe and the US by adding more AM production and machine manufacturing experts to the software development team, and Ritt will be integral to the company’s mission of integrating 3D printing into series manufacturing.
“I am very pleased with the trust that Aleksander Ciszek, Stephan Kuehr and their team have placed in me,” said Ritt. “I am convinced that adding the integration of AM machines within 3YOURMIND’s comprehensive software will be the solution the AM industry needs to make the step from individual prototyping to advanced industrialization and reliable serial-batch production.”
ElogioAM Introducing Facilan HT Material
This summer, high-performance 3D printing filament producer 3D4Makers and specialty chemicals company Perstorp AB signed a joint venture agreement, which resulted in the new 3D printing materials company ElogioAM B.V. Now, the company is continuing to develop new filament solutions, like Facilan C8, for 3D printing, and this week introduced its latest addition: Facilan HT. The copolyster material was designed, like all Facilan products, to be easily 3D printed with minimum warping on most conventional FDM 3D printers, which require stronger, more durable materials. It’s fully amorphous, with high temperature resistance and high stiffness, which makes it possible to optimize designs for faster rigid part print jobs.
Matthew Forrester, the 3D Printing Tech leader for L`Oréal, said, “Excellent technical support from the Elogio team, Facilan HT is as easy to print as PLA, with a good level of translucidity, perfect for our prototyping needs.”
Facilan HT is now available for pre-order in 1.75 mm diameter, 750 gram spools for €37.50.
Simplify3D Announces Software Update
Just one month ago, Simplify3D, which is one of the most popular brands of professional 3D slicing software, launched Version 4.1 of its software suite. Now, the company has come out with Version 4.1.1 of the software.
This latest release comes with many improved features, in addition to multiple bug fixes for issues like disabled force retraction between layers. For example, the corkscrew printing (vase mode) has improved seam locations, and users can transition this mode to create smooth spiraling outlines without adding any additional artifacts. The skirt and brim placement has been updated to remain closer to the outline of the model for better adhesion, and the solid layer placement has been improved in order to create high-quality top solid layers.
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We’re taking care of business first in today’s 3D Printing News Briefs, followed by a story about 3D printed glasses and then moving on into the aerospace sector. 3YOURMIND is sharing a preview of its upcoming virtual AM Summit, and Rize published a new case study. TriPro 3D Technology introduced a new 3D printer, and a doctor at the Beijing Tongren Hospital is hoping to correct patients’ vision with 3D printed glasses. Launcher completed another test for its 3D printed rocket engine, a 3D modeler put a lot of work into creating a 3D printed NASA helmet, and engineers at NASA’s Ames Research Center created a 3D printable model of its flying telescope.
3YOURMIND Presenting Virtual AM Summit
German startup 3YOURMIND, which provides industrial 3D printing software solutions, is presenting a free virtual conference called the AM Summit later this month for people who want to learn more about industrial 3D printing. Beginning at 10 am Central European Time on August 28, the AM Summit will feature five speakers from multiple industries, who will be discussing topics like how to make data 3D printable, the future of 3D printing materials, and how to identify great AM business cases.
The AM Summit’s website states, “Learn how to get started with 3D design, identify your first successful business cases, and how to optimize workflows like leading companies around the world do. Participate in the digital conference online from your desk and chat in real time with the audience and the experts”
Rize Presents Customer Case Study
Boston-based 3D printing company Rize just released a new customer case study about New Hudson Facades (NHF), which designs, engineers, manufactures, and installs custom glass and aluminum façades on skyscrapers, that explains how the company adopted 3D printing in its Pennsylvania office, which already contained automated assembly lines, material handling and inspection equipment, and robotic glazing equipment. NHF’s engineering manager Andrew Black was already familiar with 3D printing and thought that the company could increase product quality and production and decrease costs by incorporating the technology into its daily operations. When asking Cimquest, a Rize reseller, for a recommendation, Black specified that the AM solution the company needed had to be safe, fast, easy to learn and use, and able to fabricate strong functional parts, like clamping fixtures and check gauges. Cimquest then suggested the Rize One.
“I put Rize One right next to my desk, so I can use it all the time. It’s so easy, anyone can use it,” Black said.
“We’re finding creative new uses every day for our Rize 3D printer.”
NHF is now enjoying a 15% increase in production speed and $200,000 cost savings per year on fixtures.
TriPro Introduces Industrial 3D Printer
China-based TriPro Technology Co., Ltd. specializes in lasers and CNC machines but has also made the leap to 3D printing. Now, the company is introducing its latest 3D printer, the ProMaker 700, for industrial applications. It’s easy to print with materials like ABS, PLA, PETG, and nylon on the ProMaker 700, which features a 460 x 430 x 740 mm build volume. The 3D printer can maintain a constant temperature of about 60°C, thanks to its full enclosure; this is necessary when working with materials like ABS so they don’t warp at the edges due to rapid cooling. With a 50 micron resolution on X and Y and a 100 micron on Z, the ProMaker 700 is also perfect for batch manufacturing.
“We highly recommend this machine for designing, for manufacturing, prototyping, importance of functional and parts manufacturing,” said Achilles from TriPro.
3D Printed Glasses for Correcting Vision
At the Beijing Tongren Hospital in China, Dr. Song Hongxin is working to create customized 3D printed glasses with a free-form surface to help people with deformed corneas correct their vision. Free-form surface lenses, which can fit differently shaped corneas, can help with the symptoms of an eye disorder called keratoconus, which can result in symptoms like astigmatism, blurred vision, and nearsightedness.
Dr. Song, who was inspired by the adaptive optical system of NASA, explained, “Normal corneas have a smooth and convex surface, while their (keratoconus patients’) corneas are bumpy with many irregular concaves.”
While traditionally made glasses aren’t always customizable, and can be expensive when they are, 3D printing allows physicians to customize glasses more accurately to fit a patient’s cornea.
Launcher Completes Hot-Fire Test
Launcher, a space startup, is making metal 3D printed components for rocket engines, like a combustion chamber made using nickel-chromium alloy Inconel 718. The startup relies on EOS technology for its 3D printing needs, and recently completed another hot-fire test of its E-1 3D printed chamber rocket engine, which is being used to help Launcher validate the design of the 3D printed combustion chamber and internal cooling channels before the technology is applied to its much larger E-2.
During the 30 second test, Launcher achieved its highest “performance and temperature mix ratio for LOX/RP-1” and reached a combustion temperature of about 6,000°F, which is over twice the melting point temperature of its 3D printed Inconel 718 combustion chamber.
3D Printed NASA Helmet
Designer, animator, special effects creator, and maker Adam Savage, formerly of Mythbusters and currently of Tested, was excited to introduce a video on the site recently about a new member of the Tested family – 3D modeler and prop maker Darrell Maloney, also known as The Broken Nerd.
“Darrell came to my attention last year because he’s ludicrously prolific and incredibly facile at 3D printing and model making and ambitious in his scope,” Savage said in the new video.
“In our ongoing collaboration, Darrell will continue to deliver some videos for Tested.com, including this one, in which I commissioned Darrell to make a space helmet for me.”
It’s not just any space helmet either – Savage is working to replicate the orange Advanced Crew Escape Suit (ACES), also called a pumpkin suit. This full pressure suit was worn by Space Shuttle crews after STS-65, and Darrell adapted a high-fidelity model that Savage purchased in order to make the helmet 3D printable. It took over 100 hours of 3D printing to create the helmet – you can check out the full process in the video below.
3D Printable SOFIA Flying Telescope Model
Engineers at the Ames Research Center have made a 3D printable eight-piece model of NASA’s flying telescope SOFIA, which stands for Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy. The SOFIA telescope was built into a modified Boeing 747 wide-body jetliner, and flies at altitudes of up to 45,000 feet in order to observe the objects that fill our universe, like black holes, comets, and stars, from the stratosphere. The 3D printable SOFIA model, which includes a mini version of the real SOFIA’s 106″ reflecting telescope, was built to a scale of 1/200, making it just under a foot long.
The digital files to 3D print your own SOFIA model are free to download.
“SOFIA flies higher than commercial jetliners to get above 99 percent of the water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere, which blocks infrared light from reaching the ground. This is why SOFIA is capable of making observations that are impossible for even the largest and highest ground-based telescopes,” NASA officials said.
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