This company is building the first autonomous rocket factory using 3D printed rockets
Relativity Space uses 3D printing technology to revolutionize the way rockets are built and flown. The company believes that as a society we need to be realistic about living in environments other than Earth, but to do that we need to build rockets faster and cheaper. Currently the way rockets are built, making a small adjustment can take a lot of time and money, but with 3D printing technology, a rocket can be made half an inch bigger with just a few mouse clicks.
3D printing allows Relativity Space to make things in ways that weren’t possible before. “We print the hardware, we test the hardware, put it through the pressures we expect to see in life, and then we inspect it afterward to make sure the welds don’t crack, to make sure the material is still usable, and then we assemble it,” Clay Walker, NASA’s Stennis Site Manager, tells In The Know. “They do the assembly in Long Beach [California] and they put the lines on the valves, the batteries, the computers, and then they ship it to us.
Once assembled, the next step is to test. Performance testing is done at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, where they ensure that when the rocket enters space for the very first time, it does exactly what they think it will do. If adjustments need to be made, Relativity sends it back to its design team and improvements can be made fairly quickly.
Relativity’s first vehicle and first fully 3D-printed rocket is Terran 1, which has successfully completed its mission cycle test for its Integrated Stage 2, executing the full test duration and marking the first time a stage has 3D printed has undergone acceptance testing. Mission duty cycle testing basically means “you’re going to run it at the same duration that it will actually experience in flight, so that’s sort of the final check of the system,” says lead engineer Jordan Raice. propulsion tests from Relativity. If everything looks good, the rocket is about to go into space.
Terran 1 is Relativity’s proof of concept, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for aerospace 3D printing technology. “The [are] so many opportunities to refine it even more, to make structures even more complex, to make things even faster, and then possibly to use this technology in other applications [like] being able to 3D print something in orbit or on another planet is a really big deal,” says Raice.
Relativity believes that 3D printing is not just the future of rocketry, but the future of many aspects of our lives. “I think companies like Relativity are paving the way for 3D print manufacturing to become more ubiquitous in our societies,” shares Propulsion Test Engineer Zoe Dickert. “3D printing is the future of all manufacturing, and this is a great place to really put that to the test. We’re not just another rocket startup. We’re a manufacturing-focused rocket startup 3D printing.
“We don’t just want to fly our rockets to Mars, we want to fly our printers to Mars on our rockets,” Walker adds.
Ultimately, the sky is the limit at Relativity, and the company only sees 3D printing accelerating society toward a better future. Raice concludes: “Having the technology to allow us to travel to distant places, to build things in distant places, to thrive and to really live in those environments, I think is super important and something that I am passionate about. really about what we’re doing here.
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