Test for Cocoa company's 3D-printed rocket engine ends in misfire

More testing scheduled in coming weeks

COCOA, – A demonstration ended with a pair of misfires as a Space Coast-based startup showed off a rocket engine that uses 3D-printed fuel.

During a media event on Tuesday, Rocket Crafters conducted two test fires of its STAR-3D Hybrid Rocket Engine. During both attempts, there was a hang fire as the fuel in the engine failed to ignite.

"We're used to things in a (research and development) environment being somewhat difficult," Board member Sean Mirsky said.

Employees with the company said the test was somewhat disappointing, but it also highlighted the inherent safety of their technology.

"It shows that in the case of an emergency, it still would not detonate or cause any issues on the launch pad," propulsion engineer Kineo Wallace said.

Company officials later determined the cause of the misfire.

"Our igniter components absorbed too much humidity over the past month of testing. There was so much water it only smoldered," according to an email from Mirskey. "Made with fresh materials it burned easily."

According to designers, the engine uses 3D printing technology to create a solid fuel grain that provides a smooth and reliable burn. The company said the low-cost materials, which consist of nitrous oxide and ABS plastic, eliminate the risk of an explosion and are easy to replicate.

"We can create a brand new fuel design in an afternoon, print it out the next day and we can test it the same week," Mirsky said.

Tuesday marked the 42nd test fire of the STAR-3D hybrid rocket engine. Leaders with Rocket Crafters said they will gather the data from the demonstration and continue weekly testing at their Cocoa facility.

The company said they plan to launch the engine on a test rocket this winter.

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