Taking a Punt on 3D Printing to Fill a Sizeable Hole in Our Defense

The nature of a human life can be inferred through many different factors, and yet nothing defines it better our willingness to improve at a consistent pace. This commitment towards getting better, under all possible circumstances, has really enabled the world to clock some huge milestones, with technology emerging as quite a major member of the group. The reason why we hold technology in such a high regard is, by and large, predicated upon its skill-set, which guided us towards a reality that nobody could have ever imagined otherwise. Nevertheless, if we look beyond the surface for one hot second, it will become abundantly clear how the whole runner was also very much inspired from the way we applied those skills across a real world environment. The latter component, in fact, did a lot to give the creation a spectrum-wide presence, and as a result, initiated a full-blown tech revolution. Of course, the next thing this revolution did was to scale up the human experience through some outright unique avenues, but even after achieving a feat so notable, technology will somehow continue to bring forth the right goods. The same has turned more and more evident in recent times, and assuming one new discovery ends up with the desired impact, it will only put that trend on a higher pedestal moving forward.

Ursa Major, the leading independent rocket propulsion provider and a critical player in building the defense industrial base across the United States, has officially announced the launch of Lynx, which marks a new approach to designing and manufacturing solid rocket motors (SRM). According to certain reports, Lynx leverages 3D printing technology to facilitate a more flexible and scalable brand of manufacturing, something that is still quite rare in an industry suffering, at present, from a broken supply chain and an overextended industrial base. The promised flexibility is, in fact, visible at the most granular production unit level. You see, the whole mechanism works because these units are able to bank upon additive manufacturing and a product-agnostic tooling system to produce multiple SRM iterations at the same time, and do they do so at an optimal level of pace. Complimenting the same is a fact that the process in question also doesn’t mandate any sort of expensive and time-consuming re-tooling or retraining. Having covered the development from an overall standpoint, we now must take a microscopic view of the same to better understand its significance. For instance, if we talk about Lynx’s production capability and scalability, we would know that the new approach comes decked with the ability to print over 1,650 man-portable motor casings in just a year, while simultaneously boasting an option to facilitate “one-click” changeover to different casings with one additive machine. Then, there is the prospect of relevance, which includes how Ursa Major’s latest brainchild can work alongside motors ranging all the way from two to 22.5 inches in diameter. This includes many of the most commonly used missile systems, like Stingers, GMLRS, and air defense systems. Another detail worth a mention here is rooted in the product’s knowhow when it comes to carrying more propellant using the same engine footprint. Such a feature should, in turn, enable Lynx to outperform legacy motor systems by a significant margin. Further bringing a motor design which allows for common propellants to be used across multiple applications, the approach makes a point to take on supply chain challenges often associated with developing bespoke propellants for each individual motor application. Not just that, the stated capabilities also hint at increased collaboration with other industry partners. Rounding up the highlights is Ursa Major’s bid to simplify complex and labor-intensive manufacturing processes. This has instigated a clear-cut benefit by reducing part count and shortening the assembly line. Now, with investment obligations regarding individual parts and assembly line perceptibly eased, it also leads us to a possibility of lower costs and higher financial viability.

“Ursa Major is offering a new way to scale production of SRMs,” said Joe Laurienti, CEO and founder of Ursa Major. “Lynx meets the defense industry’s need for a faster, cheaper, scalable, and flexible SRM production process that results in better-performing solid rocket motors. We’ve adapted our extensive experience in additive manufacturing, materials development, and propulsion production to the most pressing problems facing the SRM industry. The result is an adaptable manufacturing process that is designed to mass produce multiple systems, rapidly switching from one model to another, producing reliable SRMs quickly and at scale, while leaving room to collaborate across the industry on energetics.”

Lynx’s introduction provides an interesting follow-up to one report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Going by the available details, this report revealed how depleted inventories of munitions like Javelins, Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (GMLRS), and Stingers that rely on SRMs will take between five and 18 years to replace, if the country continues to rely on slow and outdated production techniques.

Founded in, Ursa Major was the first American organization ever to fire an oxygen-rich staged combustion engine. From there onwards, the company’s rise has been largely orchestrated by an industry-leading ability to provide reusable, high-performing propulsion systems to commercial space enterprises, defense contractors, and the Department of Defense for launch, hypersonics, and national security missions. Ursa Major’s excellence in what it does can also be understood once you consider that its propulsion systems save customers, on average, five years worth of time, and $50 million in investments, compared to building propulsion in-house.

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