With the launch of Terran 1, the first 3D-printed rocket ever, Relativity Space, a business based in California, is set to achieve a milestone. The last 7 years have been spent by the business perfecting the technology. It is celebrating the launch of the rocket, which was scheduled to take off on Wednesday. While not carrying commercial cargo, the initial flight will transport a failed 3D-printed rocket part from an earlier attempt to construct a craft.
At 85% 3D printed, the 35-meter-tall Terran 1 rocket is by far the biggest 3D-printed structure ever put together. The 3D-printing technique finds extensive application in multiple industries. It uses machines which autonomously “print” successive layers of soft, powdered, or liquid materials. These materials are then quickly solidified or fused to create solid, 3-dimensional things. Object designs are scanned from digital blueprints.
Relativity Space has staked its future on the cost reductions it anticipates from streamlining its rocket manufacturing processes. The use of enormous, robotic 3D printers will enable the achievement of this goal. Relativity Space uses 3D printers to streamline many of its production procedures. In addition, 3D printers make design adjustments to rockets more easily if they are needed after they have taken off. This eliminates the need for a convoluted supply chain, which would normally delay rocket improvements.
Terran 1 is designed to launch satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) with a payload of 2,755 pounds. On the other hand, Relativity Space has developed the Terran R, a bigger, 3D-printed reusable rocket that it plans to launch in 2024. This is a result of the dwindling demand for that category of the launch vehicle. Over $1.65 billion worth of launch contracts have been signed by Relativity Space. The contracts are for both of its rockets, with the larger Terran R accounting for the majority of those sales.
The company’s innovative approach to reducing manufacturing costs stands in contrast to most of its competitors. The majority of its competitors have concentrated on lowering costs by developing rockets designed to be reusable. An example is the Falcon 9 boosters made by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Relativity Space is one of several American rocket companies competing to meet the surging demand for low-cost launch services.
Demand is currently being driven by so-called mega-constellation plans by space organizations. OneWeb, SpaceX, and Jeff Bezos’s Amazon are some of the companies that aim to launch tens of thousands of internet-beaming satellites into low-earth orbit (LEO) in the near future. While OneWeb and Amazon want to employ comparable huge rockets from different launch companies for their satellites, SpaceX currently uses its heavy-lift rockets to place its Starlink network in orbit. According to an announcement made by the firms last year, OneWeb will launch its newest satellites on Terran R from Relativity Space.
A noteworthy accomplishment for the business and the larger space industry is Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket. The employment of 3D printing technology in the manufacture of rockets has the potential to completely transform the sector and drastically cut manufacturing costs. Relativity Space is in a good position to profit from this trend. This is because of its innovative approach to rocket development as the need for affordable launch services keeps rising.