Composite materials are utilized in many industries today due to its high performance and lightweight. However, the part manufacturing process of traditional composites is complicated and often involves high cost. The molds used for composite manufacturing are usually one of the contributors to the high part manufacturing cost. The authors demonstrated in this paper a manufacturing process for a carbon fiber reinforced composite rocket payload housing using an additively manufactured polylactic acid (PLA) payload housing core. The paper also demonstrates the designing and manufacturing of a functional product, which was used in a real-life application, achieved by college undergraduate students. The payload housing was designed to maximize space efficiency and the performance of the designed payload housing was simulated to verify that it met the structural requirements. Carbon fiber reinforced composites were wrapped and cured on the printed core using a wet layup technique. This process did not require traditional composite manufacturing molds, which resulted in significantly lower part manufacturing cost compared to a traditional composite part manufacturing processes using a mold. The carbon fiber-reinforced composite rocket payload housing was successfully built and mounted to a suborbital autonomous rocket and launched.


We would like to acknowledge Pedram Motevalli, Al Musgrave, Corinne Neidig, and Derek Grant for their participation in the project.



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