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Relativity Space wants to print whole rockets

– News of December 12, 2017 –

3D printing has become in recent years a key technology for the space sector. Many companies use them to make complex parts without expensive machining processes, which can drive down prices. In 2014, SpaceX for the first time flew a Falcon 9 rocket with a 3D printed oxidation valve. Arianespace is working on the Prometheus engine, whose the company hopes to lower the cost by ten, including through 3D printing.

Relativity Space is an american company created at the end of 2015. Its goal is to use 3D printing to print an entire 3D launcher : the engine, the tank and the fuselage. Relativity Space wants to lower the cost of rockets : from 5% to 10% of the cost of a launcher comes from raw materials, the rest comes from the highly skilled and therefore very expensive workforce. By replacing humans with machines, Relativity Space believes it can bring down costs and therefore prices very aggressively. To achieve this, Relativity Space has developed a homemade metal alloy and assembled the world’s largest 3D metal printer.

The american company must now implement all the manufacturing processes. But the two creators of Relativity Space have experience : one of them worked on 3D printing within Blue Origin, while the other worked in the SpaceX engine division. Relativity Space has started its engine search process, called Aeon 1. This engine burns methane and liquid oxygen and is designed to deliver thrust of almost 7 tons. Despite the company’s youthfulness, the Aeon 1 engine has already been tested at the NASA Research Center in Mississippi. The first rocket of Relativity Space should be called Terran. The first stage of the rocket will be equipped with nine Aeon 1 engines, the second stage will have only one, which looks like what SpaceX does. Terran will be able to place 1250 kg of payload in low orbit.

Relativity Space has raised $ 10 million in its first round of fundraising and hopes to launch its rocket in 2021. Relativity Space is recruiting a lot and hopes to have about 50 employees by the end of 2018. The team is made up of veterans of New Space companies and 3D printing professionals. The company has set itself a goal : to print the first rocket on the surface of the planet Mars.

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