[email protected] Launches $15,000 Kickstarter

Kriti Sarin

Students for the Exploration and Development of Space at UCSD recently launched a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a rocket powered by a completely 3-D-printed engine, a project called Vulcan-I. The team publicized the campaign after successfully test-firing a 3-D-printed rocket engine two times at Friends of Amateur Rocketry test facility in the Mojave Desert on April 18.

[email protected] became the first team of undergraduate students in the world to successfully design, print and test a 3-D-printed rocket engine in 2013, but the student organization is still working to make unprecedented developments in the aerospace engineering industry. Earl Warren College senior and [email protected] Vice President Alex Finch told the UCSD Guardian that Vulcan-I is unique because college students are fully responsible for its direction and pace of progress.

“This project is unlike any other simply because it has never been conducted at a university before. We will be the first students to launch a rocket powered by a 3-D-printed engine, and we will be one of the first groups ever to do it,” Finch said. “We are doing things that have not even been done widely in industry, as a completely student-led project, spending 20 to 30 hours a week on it per person.”

Finch further explained that the organization’s work is relevant today because of the rise of the NewSpace Movement, which he said promotes an evolutionary shift to a civilization in outer space and added that their methods were necessary because of the inherently expensive nature of space exploration.

“With the recent billion dollar investments into the NewSpace Movement … it is clear that there is a vast opportunity to develop outer space for human use. The biggest inhibitor to this future is the lack of infrastructure currently in space,” Finch said. “It costs too much to get things into space. [email protected] is helping reduce the cost to access space by taking one of the most expensive and complex parts of a rocket — the engine — and 3-D printing it to significantly reduce the cost, time and weight of engines.”

Sixth College freshman Darren Charrier, who is the organization’s business manager, told the Guardian that [email protected] is also working on two other projects.

“We have recently started a new project called MoonShot Alpha which is an interuniversity team to design, build and land a lunar lander on the moon,” Charrier commented. “We are also building a CubeSat [miniaturized satellite] that will serve as the lander’s communications array in lunar orbit.”

He added that students who are interested in joining [email protected] can apply online by sending an email to [email protected].

“We are always looking for those who are driven to take on big challenges and who are willing to learn,” Charrier said.

The Kickstarter campaign, which generated over $7,000 in contributions during the first day of its launch, will be open to donations for the next month and can be found at bit.ly/Vulcan1.

The team aims to launch the liquid-fueled Vulcan-I rocket at the annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition in Utah this June.