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Our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane: Intimate snaps

Inside the world's first 3D-printed, rocket-powered aircraft

By Lester Haines, 30 Sep 2013

The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) team is gearing up to get our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane airborne, and while we fiddle with servos and autopilots, we thought you might enjoy a few intimate snaps of the world's first 3D-printed, rocket-powered aircraft.

Before we get down to to it, it's hats off once again to designers David Cooper, Chris Dodd and Amrith Surendra, and 3T RPD Ltd, without whose sterling efforts you would not today be eyeballing this beautiful bird.

So, let's kick off with a rather uninspiring snap of the Vulture 2 straight out of the box (click on the images to get a bigger version):

The bits of the Vulture 2 wrapped in plastic and straight out of the box

Things soon got more interesting, though, as we spread the bits out on the bench:

The components of the Vulture 2 laid out

The components of the Vulture 2 laid out

The components of the Vulture 2 laid out

Keep your nose clean

The level of detail obtainable from 3D printing is evident in these images of the upper and lower nose sections...

The separated upper and lower halves of the nose

Internal structural detail of the nose section

Internal structural detail of the nose section

...and try this nice view of the inside of the Vulture 2's pointy beak:

The internal structure of the nose

If you want drama, though, check out the internal structure of the beast's rear fuselage and inner wings:

Dramatic back-lit shot showing the internal structure of the rear fuselage

LOHAN team member Dave Akerman whipped out his camera and got this view of the inside of said rear fuselage...

The inside structure of the rear fuselage

...and managed to get inside the wing, although it was a bit of a tight squeeze:

The wing's internal structure

There are some CAD images here of the aircraft before it went off to the printers, which give a better idea of the impressively complex detail.

The rudders also scrubbed up nicely with a bit of backlighting:

The rudder, showing the internal structure

The rudders themselves are two parts, epoxied together around a mounting rod. Note the rudder horn and servo cable. As those of you who tuned into our live reveal know, we do have the basic control systems mounted. However, you'll have to wait for details on those.

Mounting flanges

In the meantime, enjoy some more images, including the nose section bayonet mount...

The bayonet filling which attaches the nose to the fuselage

...the nose top section mounting flange, with Teflon insert above...

The front of the detached top section of the nose

...and the Vulture 2's extremely pointy beak:

The nose of the Vulture 2

At the other end, we have the rocket motor retaining ring, designed for easy removal of the motor case from the rear fuselage:

The rear of the fuselage and rocket motor retaining ring

Finally, here's a sexy skin shot, demonstrating how the parts come out of the 3D printing machine and why the Vulture 2 currently feels like a cuttlefish bone:

The rear fuselage skin, showing the texture

Evidently, a nice paint job is in order, but until we get the aircraft into the spray booth, you'll just have use this pic of the assembled vehicle mounted on its fantastical flying truss launch platform...

The LOHAN team poses with the Vulture 2

...to imagine just how impressive it'll look in gloss [COLOUR REDACTED].

That's all for now. Look out for more hot spaceplane action in the near future...®

Bootnote

Here's the now-traditional animated gif of the above team (from L-R Dave Akerman, Rob Eastwood, Paul Shackleton and Claire Edwards) showing off a few sharp moves:

You put your left leg in

All together now...

You put your left leg in...


Further LOHAN resources:

  • New to LOHAN? Try this mission summary for enlightenment.
  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • Join the expert LOHAN debate down at Reg forums.
  • All the LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vids live on YouTube.
  • For our SPB photo archive, proceed directly to Flickr.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

LOHAN - A Special Projects Bureau production in association with...

  • 3T RPD logo
  • University of Southampton logo
  • Applied Vacuum Engineering logo
  • Escher Technologies
  • Flashpoint Fireworks logo
  • HAB Supplies logo
  • Rock 7 logo

Paper Aircraft Released Into Space

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