Using what it's billing as the world's largest metal 3D printers, Relativity Space is creating rockets from raw material within 60 days. PHOTO courtesy Relativity Space.
In an aerospace first, an almost fully 3D-printed rocket has been launched.
The 34-metre tall (112 ft) Terran-1, which is 85% additive manufactured, was launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The test flight was for a few minutes before the rocket fell back to Earth.
The rocket is the production of Relativity Space. The California-based company has designed its own additive manufacturing printers to fabricate the rocket and is aiming to have more than 95% of the rocket produced through additive manufacturing. For now, items such as computer chips, electronics, rubber seals and valves are being produced using traditional manufacturing methods.
Terran-1 is a prototype for a much larger rocket.
Relativity’s proprietary Factory of the Future includes what the company bills as the world’s largest metal 3D printers. These 3D printers have been used to create Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed rocket, and the first fully reusable, entirely 3D printed rocket, Terran R.
“Relativity’s Stargate printers’ patented technology enables an entirely new value chain and innovative structural designs that make Terran 1 and Terran R possible. By developing its Factory of the Future and rockets together, Relativity accelerates its ability to improve design, production, quality, and speed,” the company says.
By fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics, Relativity is printing its rockets’ structure and engines, significantly reducing touch points and lead times, simplifying the supply chain, and increasing overall system reliability. Relativity can create its rockets, Terran 1 and Terran R, from raw material within 60 days.
The Terran R, which the company says is fully reusable including its engines, first stage, second stage, and payload fairing, and will be capable of launching over 20,000kg to low Earth orbit (LEO) in reusable configuration. It is scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral, starting in 2024.