Ursa Major Ships First Rocket Engine Parts Printed at YBI

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – With access to the resources of the Youngstown Business Incubator and America Makes, a Colorado-based manufacturer has accelerated development of engine components.

Ursa Major delivered its first copper-based 3D-printed rocket engine combustion chambers out of its advanced manufacturing lab here, the Denver-based manufacturer reported this morning.

Ursa Major, “America’s only privately funded company that focuses solely on rocket propulsion,” according to the company news release, launched the Youngstown lab in October at YBI’s Tech Block Building #5, where it occupies about 1,200 square-feet of space. The lab is dedicated to developing and testing additive manufacturing processes and materials for Ursa Major’s rocket engines, used for both space launch and hypersonic applications.

Ursa Major’s rocket engines are more than 80% 3D-printed and primarily built and tested in the company’s Colorado headquarters.

The first Youngstown-manufactured pieces were shipped to Denver about eight weeks ago, Jake Bowles, director of advanced manufacturing and materials at Ursa Major, said Tuesday afternoon. Bowles, who is based at the Denver headquarters, oversees development and operations at the Youngstown site, which has two full-time employees.

The Youngstown lab is equipped with a large-format laser powder bed fusion 3D printer designed to make on-demand components for Ursa Major rocket engines.

“This type of advanced additive manufacturing is a great example of the kind of American innovation that America Makes seeks to support,” said John Wilczynski, executive director of America Makes, which is headquartered in a YBI building. “Successful projects like this are part of a resurgence in American manufacturing that helps strengthen our domestic supply chain.”

Additive manufacturing processes cut the production and delivery cycle from a minimum of six months using conventional manufacturing processes down to one month.

“Development of these propulsion components is very, very rapid compared to what we could do if we were standing up in an independent site that wasn’t connected with YBI or America Makes,” Bowles said. “So the support of both of those organizations has been instrumental for us to achieve the rapid pace we have been able to achieve with the site in Youngstown.”

The existing supply chain for high temperature metal alloy components is limited, and it can take months to turn around a needed revision. The lab at YBI accelerates the engine development process, allowing Ursa Major to rapidly iterate on design adjustments in-house to improve engine performance and reliability.

“Speed is of the essence when it comes to producing rocket engines right now because lack of propulsion is causing a significant bottleneck in U.S. access to space and hypersonics testing,” said Joe Laurienti, founder and CEO of Ursa Major “The Ursa Major facility in Youngstown is playing a pivotal role in accelerating our customers’ time to market in both commercial and government sectors.”

In Denver, the parts made in Youngstown are going through any required post processing, including machining, servicing and finishing, Bowles said.

“Then we will actually install those components into development engines to help us develop new engines for both our Hadley and Ripley engine programs,” he continued.

The company’s goal is to establish the United States as a “global supplier of rocket propulsion is in line with our efforts to foster domestic innovation and manufacturing across industries in Ohio,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio. Ryan, with America Makes, helped secure $3 million in federal financial support for the lab.

“I’m pleased that Youngstown is home to this state-of-the-art facility that will ultimately help the U.S. regain its leadership in space and hypersonic technologies,” Ryan said in a statement.

Pictured: Thomas Pomorski and Ty Barzak handle 3D-printed rocket engine components at the company’s advanced manufacturing facility in Youngstown.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.