Open Source Competition Attempts To Build 3D Printed Spaceship

Open Source Competition Attempts To Build 3D Printed Spaceship

The collaborative design contest hopes to ultimately disrupt the nature of the space transportation industry.

Emma Hutchings
  • 8 march 2013

Global space company DIYRockets and cloud-based design platform Sunglass are partnering to launch a new open source design competition that aims to create innovative space transportation by asking people to create 3D printed rocket engines. People will work with others over a cloud-based collaboration system, designing the new engines together.

The competition, which opens for registration at SXSW on March 9th, encourages the fusion of creativity, technology, and collaboration by people around the world. Utilizing Sunglass’s cloud-based platform to visualize, collaborate, manage versions and exchange feedback on designs with team members and the public from anywhere, the contest aims to dramatically drive down design costs while creating innovative space technology.

Sunglass will award a total of $10,000 in prizes for the winning designs, focusing on technical aspects and collaborative teamwork. Shapeways will be providing $500 in free 3D printing to help create each of the top two designs, which will be judged by legendary inventor Dean Kamen and a panel of industry experts from NASA, MIT, and TED.

An Open Source Competition To Build 3D Printed Space Rocket Engines

Darlene Damm, co-founder and co-CEO of DIYRockets, spoke to PSFK about the competition:

How long does the design challenge last? Will it be completed during SXSW or just launched there?

The challenge is being announced at SXSW. Contestants will be able to begin signing up this Saturday, March 9th – and the actual contest will run March 9th – June 1st 2013 (there will be some deliverables due between.)

Is there any concern over 3D printing material handling the workload/heat/etc required from rockets?

Shapeways, which is providing free 3D printing for the prizes, is able to now print with stainless steel, not to mention 3D printing is advancing at a very fast rate with new developments coming out every few weeks.  We know of at least one example of a small 3D printed rocket engine that is going through tests, but has not been used for launch yet. We picked this technology for the competition because we feel it is on the cusp of cutting edge innovation and what is possible to create.

We recognize that there are a few challenges to still overcome, but know that the amount of amazing 3D printing technology now available plays into our favor. We feel that this technology has tremendous potential for driving down costs and addressing the access to space issue (high cost of transporting goods from earth to space), so by targeting it with the competition, we are hoping to dramatically speed up the R&D process. In short, we are hoping to see some exciting entries and collaborative work on the platform that will be advancing the technology, and because of the open design of the contests, ensuring that info is also shared with the 3D printing companies and others. This is also the “design” stage of the contest.  While not confirmed, we hope to run additional competitions around testing the technology. We are hoping to push this technology forward with targeted efforts.

 How has the privatization of space travel fostered innovation?

I think the two biggest breakthroughs are:

The Ansari XPrize led to the development of Space Ship One (

SpaceX just completed their second cargo delivery to the International Space Station (

Nanoracks is also doing some interesting work in promoting research.


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