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This Ingenious X-Ray Inspection System Is Like a Medical CT Scanner for Rocket Engines

A UK-based spaceflight company, Orbex is known for producing the world’s largest 3D-printed rocket, Orbex Prime, set to be launched later this year from Spaceport Sutherland in the North of Scotland - a historic event for the UK. Now, it’s gearing up to become the first launch operator to conduct high-energy X-ray inspections of rocket engines before their flight.
The X-Ray Inspection System is the equivalent of a medical CT scanner for rocket engines 6 photos
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Orbex claims to own “the largest high-precision metal 3D printer” currently in use in Europe, one that was custom-made by the company for the production of its rocket engines. It has been manufacturing 3D-printed engines since 2018, and the Prime micro-launcher is now undergoing tests at a facility in Kinloss, close to the Orbex headquarters.

Orbex Prime is set to carry small satellites to low Earth orbit when it will be launched from Space Hub Sutherland, which is considered the first carbon-neutral spaceport in the world.

In addition to preparing for the upcoming launch, the spaceflight company will also be developing an innovative X-Ray Inspection System for rocket engines. This system has already proven its efficiency on European launch propulsion systems, but Orbex and FORCE Technology will take it to the next level, extending its capabilities to larger structures, such as the Orbex Prime.

The two companies have been awarded a contract from ESA (the European Space Agency), and Orbex will become one of the first launch operators to use this technology prior to flight. Just like a medical CT scanner, this technology shows the detailed interior of rocket engines without damaging them in any way. This way, operators can detect and eliminate potential internal flaws.

According to the company, this X-Ray System is set to become “a key component of engine testing,” one that “will give peace of mind to customers,” as an extra way of confirming the engine’s reliability.

As the space launch sector continues to grow across the globe, it’s safe to say that the X-Ray Inspection System will probably be followed by similar technologies meant to ensure the safety and reliability of next-generation rocket engines.

press release
 
 
 
 
 

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