* 100X fewer parts.
* 10X faster iteration
* entirely 3D printed
Relativity is creating the first autonomous rocket factory.
Their long-term goal is the 3D printing the first rocket made from Mars.
Relativity is creating the rocket factory of the future:
An entirely 3D printed rocket
A proprietary building-sized metal 3D printer – Stargate
Intelligent hardware + software
Robotic automation enabled by low part count
Complete printing of our rocket, Terran 1, reduces vehicle part count from nearly 100,000 to under 1,000 components – and is the first step toward an entirely autonomous factory.
They are accelerating the design process by removing barriers between the digital and physical worlds.
The first result is their engine, Aeon 1:
Over 70 tests in less than 12 months’ development from scratch
No compromises: one of the highest-performance-per-dollar rocket engines in the world
Oxygen + methane propellants
Highly scalable architecture
The going rate for a rocket launch is about $100 million; Relativity says that in four years its price will be $10 million. A few of companies have 3D-printed whole rocket engines and other parts to make them more durable (molten metal shaped into a single part is less vulnerable to wear and tear than a bunch of pieces fitted together), 3D printing tends to be slower and more expensive than old-fashioned welding. Faced with that problem, Relativity decided the solution was to build its own printers.
The printers, among the largest ever, consist of 18-foot-tall robotic arms equipped with lasers that can melt a steady stream of aluminum wire into liquid metal for shaping. Ellis and Noone say a handful of the arms can work together to create the rocket’s entire body as a single piece, guided by custom software that monitors their speed and the metal’s integrity. They haven’t performed that task yet, but the printers have already made a 7-foot-wide, 14-foot-tall fuel tank in a few days and an engine in a week and a half. Relativity says a whole rocket can be built within a month if the company makes good on the promise of its technology. By comparison, the most efficient rocket-making processes today require hundreds of people working for many months.
* space shuttle had 2.5 million moving parts
* SpaceX and Blue Origin about 100,000 moving parts per rocket
* they want to get to 1,000 moving parts, fewer than a car.
Obviously success with massive 3D printing and transformation of rocket factories should then lead to
* transformation of satellite construction
* transformation of airplane construction
* transformation of drone construction
* transformation of automobile and truck construction
* transformation of military vehicles
* transformation of ships
* further transformation of robotics and factories
* transformation of fairly large power production and other industrial products
By mid-2020 Relativity Space plans to print a 90-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide rocket that can carry 2,000 pounds to orbit; the founders say it’ll fly in 2021.
New Zealand’s Rocket Lab also uses a lot of 3D printing and plans commercial launches in a matter of months, charging clients $5 million a flight, and a handful of other rocket startups are set to follow over the next two years.
Relativity Space has some other markets like US military bases. Military bases need more capability to make a wider range of products. The US Navy needs to make more things on board their ships. More 3D printing capabilities can improve the global supply chain.