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posted by martyb on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:37PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the build-it-and-they-will-come^W-go dept.

Submitted via IRC for takyon

Aerospace startup making 3D-printed rockets now has a launch site at America’s busiest spaceport

America’s busiest spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is about to get a new tenant: a startup that shares SpaceX’s ambitious plans of turning humans into a multiplanetary species. The new occupant is LA-based launch provider Relativity Space, a company that wants to revolutionize how rockets are manufactured through the use of fully automated 3D printing. The company will soon have its very own launch site at the Cape for its future 3D-printed vehicles.

Thanks to a new deal with the US Air Force, Relativity will be taking over a site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station called LC-16. It’s a pad that was once used by the US military to launch Titan and Pershing ballistic missiles. But since the late 1980s, LC-16 has been dormant. The Air Force picked Relativity to move into the area after a very competitive bidding process, and the company will modify the pad to suit its rocket technology. “Getting the launch site agreement was a huge checkmark,” Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space, tells The Verge. “That was the final infrastructure piece we need to have a clear path toward launching.”

Over the last year, Relativity has quickly established itself as a serious player in the commercial space industry. The company, which was founded in 2016, has raised more than $45 million in funding. It also has multiple workspaces in Los Angeles, and it’s currently using facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test the Aeon engine it’s been working on. As of now, Relativity has done 124 test fires of its rocket engine, in pursuit of launching the company’s first rocket by 2020.

[...] Relativity’s goal is to disrupt the entire process of manufacturing rockets. “For the last 60 years, the way rockets have been built hasn’t really changed,” says Ellis. Instead of relying on the traditional, complicated assembly line of machines and people sculpting and piecing together parts of a vehicle, Relativity wants to make building a rocket almost entirely automated. The trick? Using giant 3D printers that can create all of the parts needed to build a rocket — from the engines to the propellant tanks and structure.

[...] Building rockets this way is meant to serve two purposes for the company. First, it’s meant to save money by consolidating the parts needed for each vehicle. Ellis says that the 3D printer they’ve developed can make incredibly complicated parts in just one piece, and he argues Relativity will be able to produce rockets with 100 times fewer parts than normal. For instance, Relativity’s engine injector and chamber are made of just three 3D-printed parts; traditionally, such sections would require nearly 3,000 parts, says Ellis. “All the complexity is really in the software,” he says. “It’s really what the file and CAD model looks like. The 3D printer doesn’t really care how complex it is. It’s able to make shapes of almost any complexity.”

[...] Once it masters its automation process here on Earth, the company hopes to shrink its printers and ship them to Mars via rockets to see if they can create vehicles capable of launching from the Red Planet using raw metallic materials. If successful, Relativity could provide a service that both scientists and engineers have dreamed about for decades: a way to leave Mars once you get there. So far, we’ve only ever been able to land hardware on Mars, but not bring it back. Being able to launch from Mars would be useful for getting humans off the planet or even collecting samples of Martian rocks in order to return them to Earth for study. Ellis says that the company has already piqued the curiosity of NASA, which hopes to bring samples of Mars to Earth someday.

[...] In the end, though, Ellis hopes the success of Relativity serves as an inspiration for other companies to work on technologies needed for Mars. Perhaps other organizations might want to work on new remote energy generation or mining technologies that could be used on both our planet and the one next door. “I hope we inspire 12 or 100 companies to want to go to Mars and do the same mission,” says Ellis. “And then we all work on different parts of this. That’s really the vision to me.”

Original Submission

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Relativity Space Announces Fully Reusable "Terran R" Rocket, Planned for 2024 Debut 19 comments

Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R

Relativity Space, leveraging their 3D printing technology, has announced the next step towards supporting multiplanetary spaceflight: a fully reusable, medium lift launch vehicle named Terran R.

The company's second launch vehicle, succeeding the Terran 1 rocket to debut later this year, will have more payload capacity than the partially reusable SpaceX Falcon 9, and is only the second fully reusable commercial launch vehicle to be revealed publicly after SpaceX's Starship.

The two stage Terran R rocket will be 216 feet (65.8 meters) tall and 16 feet (4.9 meters) in diameter. The second stage features aerodynamic surfaces which will enable recovery and reuse, in addition to a reusable 5 meter diameter payload fairing. Terran R will be capable of delivering over 20,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit in its reusable configuration, beating Falcon 9's 15,600 kilograms with drone ship recovery.

Just like Terran 1, Relativity's small lift vehicle offering 1,250 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit, the components for Terran R will be 3D printed. Relativity Space aims to reduce cost and improve reliability by designing 3D printed vehicles with a low part count.

Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat

Original Submission

Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat

Relativity Space announces first launch contract, and it's a big one

The ambitious rocket company Relativity announced its first customer on Friday, the global satellite operator Telesat. The contract for flights on the Terran 1 rocket includes "multiple" launches, but Relativity chief executive Tim Ellis said he could not provide additional details.

[...] Relativity considers this a huge win because it offers another validation of its—and really, this is not an exaggeration—revolutionary approach to launch. The company aspires to use large 3D printers to manufacture nearly the entirety of a rocket, thereby automating the process and taking another step toward low-cost, launch-on-demand service. It's one thing for a private company to build a new rocket to launch small satellites, it's another to try and remake the manufacturing process as well.

Ellis said Telesat has been in discussions with Relativity for awhile, so the satellite operator has had good access to Relativity's launch technology. After this due diligence, Telesat chose Relativity in addition to previous deals with SpaceX, Arianespace, and Blue Origin. Effectively, Telesat has decided that Relativity's Terran 1 booster, with a capacity of 1.25 tons to low Earth orbit, has the right stuff to help launch a major low Earth orbit satellite constellation that will provide global broadband connectivity.

Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat

Related: Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 4, Touché) by Nuke on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:45PM (5 children)

    by Nuke (3162) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @01:45PM (#790067)

    "Disrupt", "3-D printing", "Relativity"

    Then : “I hope we inspire 12 or 100 companies to want to go to Mars and do the same mission
    Pretentious? Us?

    Obviously 3-D printing is a very useful manufacturing technique, alongside others, but it is not a magic bullet. In the end this is just another rocket company, but hyper-ventilating marketing speak to get attention.

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by patrick on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:57PM (1 child)

    by patrick (3990) on Tuesday January 22 2019, @04:57PM (#790135)

    Notice the large Protoss symbol hanging in their lab, under their name, on the other side of the American flag: picture on their website (scroll down a little) [].

    Ref: Protoss symbol []

  • (Score: 2) by corey on Wednesday January 23 2019, @01:02AM (2 children)

    by corey (2202) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @01:02AM (#790393)

    Burning a fossil fuel and then throwing out hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms at high speed to propel the rocket, whose weight is dominated by carrying the fuel to do just this is so last century. Can't we come up with anything better? Where's the actual innovation?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:13AM

      by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday January 23 2019, @02:13AM (#790415) Journal

      The innovation will be a fully reusable rocket, with launches costing a fraction of what much smaller rockets currently cost, dramatically lowering the cost per kilogram of payload, and burning a fuel that can be made on Mars without fossils.

      Elon Musk: Why I'm Building the Starship Out of Stainless Steel []

      Test flights this year.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
    • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Wednesday January 23 2019, @06:09AM

      by deimtee (3272) on Wednesday January 23 2019, @06:09AM (#790481) Journal

      Until somebody builds a skyhook, or an M-Drive with KN of thrust, chemicals are the best we can do. []
      They claim they are getting an Isp of 350 from LOX and CH4, with a 3D printed engine. If so, and if it has a reasonable reliability and lifetime, then that's actually pretty impressive.

      No problem is insoluble, but at Ksp = 2.943×10−25 Mercury Sulphide comes close.