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Bringing Moore’s Law to Engineering — Algorithmic Design of an Aerospike Rocket Engine for Advanced AM

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  • schoolOptimization

Today’s advanced 3D printing methods allow us to (a) build significantly more complex and integrated space hardware and (b) automate the manufacturing process. 

Traditional CAD engineering is a laborious process, where productivity only scales with the amount of work hours and skill of the human individual. Constructing a single rocket engine variant, for example, therefore requires substantial time and financial investments. Consequently, new concepts will always be played conservatively ("only one shot to get it right"), effectively limiting the rate of innovation. Modern rocket engines are clear decendants of the technology established in the 60s and past decades. 

The Aerospike concept promises an inherent performance gain across atmospheric ascent and in the vacuum of space due to its altitude-compensating nature compared to traditional bell-nozzles. Yet, no such engine ever left the test stand. Due to its compact design, the Aerospike concept poses multiple engineering challenges with regards to overheating and optimal packaging. Until now! 

Using the Hyperganic development platform, the construction logic for an Aeropike engine was encoded into computer algorithms (regarding isentropic flow conditions, rocket equations, manufacturing constraints etc). Moving engineering to a software-based paradigm serves multiple benefits. First, the geometry creation process now scales with the computational power deployed to the problem. Computers can generate hundreds of rocket engine variants within a short amount of time. Secondly, much more intricate and sophisticated geometry features (like smart channels for regenerative cooling) can be algorithmically driven and optimized based on in-program feedback loops and suitable objective functions. 

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how the power of AI and algorithmic engineering can change the future of manufacturing and engineering.
  • Present that the design and manufacturing of the rockets's most complicated and expensive components (the engines) to fully automated workflows will dramatically improve performance and affordability in future space travel.

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