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  • Writer's pictureBraxton Hoare

3D Printed Rockets

Relativity Space is a new company with a vision to create the first rocket made on Mars. They plan to achieve this by using their unique expertise in 3D-printed rocketry. Rockets are incredibly expensive to produce, costing about 2 billion dollars per spacecraft. Not only that but they also take around 5 years from start to finish to build. So, if humanity ever plans to become a multi-planetary species this will greatly impair our ability to expand our reach. This is why Relativity Space has put all its focus on 3D-printed rockets.

Unlike with vehicles, there is no large demand for space fairing machinery. Wherewith car manufacturing it makes sense to create an automated assembly line since thousands of cars are produced daily, it doesn’t make sense to treat rockets the same way. Consider creating an assembly line for the production of only a few rockets like creating an overly complex contraption in your kitchen just to have your eggs automatically cracked in the morning; sure it’s possible but it isn’t reasonable to go through all that set up when you only need a few eggs. So why would anyone want to automate the production process? Well, by automating it they are able to utilize the rapid prototyping abilities 3D printers offer and can create a rocket that meets their competitors in quality without spending the decades it would have taken to reach that point if they had to build each part by hand.

Considering rockets have millions of individual parts that all need to work together, 3D printing offers many improvements to the production model. All Relativity Space has to do in order to create a new part is build the 3D schematics and send them to the printers. Parts can be redesigned and tested in just 3 months with this method, cutting years off production time. Not only is it quicker at creating parts, but it also allows some structures with many moving parts to be printed as one single unit. 

Relativity Space’s first flight-ready rocket called Terran 1 went from prototype to reality in only 60 days. This is an incredible showcase for their superior technology as even the next fastest company, Space X still takes 18 months to build their rockets. They are able to be this competitive considering their rockets consist of about a hundred times fewer parts than a regular non-printed rocket. This first-of-its-kind piece of machinery is finished and ready to launch later this year, from the Cape Canaveral launch station. How it performs will either make a name for this new company or potentially damage its reputation before it even has the chance to really get going. Either way, they have cemented themselves as the industry leader for all 3D printed things related to spacecraft and that will surely help with the companies future. Even if they don’t produce rockets for themselves, they may offer their production model as a manufacturer for other companies looking to accelerate their launch.

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