Robotic Manufacturing Techniques

Interorbital Systems develops and manufactures its hardware at the company's corporate headquarters in Mojave, California. Interorbital is building a completely automated assembly line with upwards to 90% of rocket construction done by robotic equipment. The tanks as well as the engine combustion chambers and nozzles are manufactured using multiple filament winders. Aluminum parts are made by CNC equipment, with some components printed by 3D printing hardware. Only a small number of A+ technicians are required to build and assemble the NEPTUNE launchers. IOS expects to build its N2TS launcher in as little as one day with these methods.

IOS' filament winder

Filament Winding

Tightly winding pre-impregnated (pre-preg) carbon composite fibres (tow) over a hard thin shell (mandrell) produces the some of the strongest and lightest structures and vessels possible with modern technology. This technique, known as filament winding, allows rapid automated production of high-performance propellant tanks, fairings, and ablative engine casings. In order to reduce development and production costs, the IOS team designed and built its own filament winder in-house. The winder is capable of building propellant tanks with diameters up to 2.5 ft and lengths of up to 30 ft.

IOS is also building a series of new filament winders. When complete, the new winders will drastically increase IOS' propellant tank production rate.

Carbon fiber

IOS' Composite Room

Composite Lay-up

In addition to filament winding, IOS also uses the hand-layup method for the manufacture of some composite rocket components. Fiberglass fabric, carbon fabric, epoxy, and phenolic resin are used to build these parts. Hand-layup is more labor-intensive than filament winding, but facilitates rapid prototyping and easy construction of some complex parts.

Static test: CPM main rocket engine

Rocket Engine Development and Manufacturing

Every IOS rocket engine is designed, tested, and built in-house. IOS had two dedicated, fully-instrumented static engine test sites at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Each rocket engine is ground tested and certified before integration into a launch vehicle.

The aluminum rocket engine injector components are mass produced using CNC methods. Other engine components, including the ablative engine combustion chamber and nozzles, are manufactured using filament winding manufacturing techniques.

Welding at IOS

IOS technician welding the company engine test stand

Machine Shop

IOS has a fully equiped machine shop at its headquarters in Mojave. Most of the required rocket components can be prototyped, machined, or sometimes welded in-house. Both metal and composite parts are processed in the machine shop. All engineering staff are required to be proficient in the machine shop, and assist technicians with manufacturing as needed. Integrating engineering design and manufacturing increases the speed and efficiency of the design process.