The US Space Force, part of the US Armed Forces, has invested US$1.7m to develop a 3D printed rocket engine.

The E-2 engine, manufactured by Californian company Launcher, is a liquid rocket engine planned to be installed in the Launcher Light satellite launch vehicle, scheduled to fly in 2024. It features a CuCrZr or C18150 copper alloy combustion chamber, 3D printed in a M4K 3D printer provided by German company AMCM and coaxial swirl injector and turbopump parts 3D printed on a Velo 3D Sapphire printer.

According to the company, in tests, E-2 is the highest-performing liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine combustion chamber in the US.

“Launcher’s high performance engine design materially increases a rocket’s payload capacity by consuming less propellant while generating the same thrust,” said a Space Force memorandum. “As a result, Launcher’s E-2 liquid rocket engine also has the potential to significantly reduce the price to deliver small satellites to orbit on dedicated small launch vehicles, which is a key capability and priority for the Space Force.”