Midshipman 1st Class James Catina’s research demonstrated the benefits of additive manufacturing for creating rocket engines.
The SECNAV Innovation Awards Program seeks to annually recognize top Department of the Navy individuals and teams who made significant innovative achievements.
“Through additive manufacturing we are looking to be able to create designs for hybrid engines that will improve their thrust, overall capabilities and combustion safety,” said Catina.
Currently, the two most commonly used types of rocket engines are liquid rocket engines and solid fuel grains. A third and less-used type is the hybrid rocket, a combination of both. Hybrid rockets are more cost effective and energy efficient, but lack the thrust the others provide.
“Additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, allows rocket engine production to be done in less time, with less weight and considerably cheaper,” said Catina. “It allows engineers to manufacture designs that could not be done with traditional manufacturing methods. Because of that, we can conceptualize designs that could not be thought of before, allowing us to create a design geared towards increased thrust that could not be manufactured previously."
“He is extremely motivated, very enthusiastic and has great new ideas,” said Castonguay. “The additive manufacturing we have been developing, he’s really taken it to another level of capability. I saw the innovation award, and I thought the work that Catina does is different and well beyond the research that a senior would typically be doing. He’s performing at a really high level; it’s a very cutting-edge and new type of application for the technology.”
The research team has grown to five midshipmen who are involved with conducting experiments and testing the grains being developed. The midshipmen attest that both the research and Catina are the reason they participate.
The culmination of Catina’s research is slated for later this month in a live firing test of the hybrid engine. After graduating in May, Catina will be attending the Naval Postgraduate School, where he will study mechanical engineering.
“Ultimately I will be going to serve in the fleet, and I have to give up the research. But having my fingerprint on a puzzle piece, in a much bigger picture makes me feel very humbled,” he said.
For more information about USNA’s Aerospace Department, visit http://www.usna.edu/AeroDept/.