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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday June 09, @09:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the competition++ dept.

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


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:22PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:22PM (#1143728)

    Not sure I would trust a rocket 3d printed. Plastic doesn't hold up well to G-forces, or, you know, rocket fire.

    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:54PM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:54PM (#1143732)

      These are 3D printed out of metal. Rocket Lab 3D prints their engines, so the basic idea is sound, but the economics of 3D printing the rocket body are questionable. Sheet metal tubes can be assembled quickly and cheaply. They are going to need some other advantage, such as integrated ribbing to save weight, to make it worthwhile.

      • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Thursday June 10, @08:18AM (3 children)

        by PiMuNu (3823) on Thursday June 10, @08:18AM (#1143831)

        Print on the Moon? Saves weight by factor 6. Less air resistance. Admittedly, need to mine the metal...

        • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday June 10, @04:46PM (2 children)

          by Immerman (3985) on Thursday June 10, @04:46PM (#1143936)

          Assuming you're using a Sadoway magma refinery, you could get the metal as a byproduct of extracting oxygen from the regolith, but at present there's no known ready source of lunar carbon, so you'd need to bring the methane from Earth anyway, the mass of which dwarfs the mass of the rocket itself... so there's not really a huge benefit to building the rocket on the moon. Especially since there's no valuable payload on the moon, so you're going to have to launch the rocket to Earth anyway, completely canceling the benefit of making it on the moon. Production weight is irrelevant - it's the mass that matters.

          Now, once we have a thriving orbital/Lunar/Martian economic ecosystem, then 3D printed rockets could have some serious benefits since they can eliminate much of the intermediate construction infrastructure.

          Except... maybe not so much Mars, at least in the near term. They're likely to have a glut of spaceships available for the forseeable future from all the imports form Earth, and almost nothing worth shipping back.

          And maybe not so much the moon either, since without an atmosphere linear accelerators are far more efficient than rockets for reaching orbit. They could be handy for launching payloads to the outer system... except that means either the payload needs to be made on the moon as well, likely eliminating the benefit of not needing intermediate infrastructure, or you need a rendezvous in orbit to transfer the payload from an Earth-to-orbit launcher, which is likely to be a bit of a headache, but potentially worthwhile to avoid "wasting" a much more powerful rocket launched into the outer system.

          Where it could be really handy though is the asteroid belt - if you're mining rare metals in the belt then you're likely to need a LOT of rockets to export your booty, potentially far more than the raw materials you're importing, and have plenty of common metals to print rockets from, as well as plenty of C/H/O to produce fuel.

          • (Score: 2) by PiMuNu on Friday June 11, @09:17AM (1 child)

            by PiMuNu (3823) on Friday June 11, @09:17AM (#1144203)

            Interesting. Why is there no Carbon on the moon?

            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Friday June 11, @01:51PM

              by Immerman (3985) on Friday June 11, @01:51PM (#1144241)

              No idea, anyone else? Perhaps it's bound into heavier molecules that settled towards the core for some reason? Seems like volcanoes are a major carbon source on Earth over geologic timescales, which would suggest that something similar might happen here.

              Regardless, lunar regolith analysis has shown it to be various silicon and metal oxides - about 40% oxygen, 20% silicon, 13% iron, and progressively smaller amounts of calcium, aluminum, magnesium, and titanium, and 1% "other"

              There should be at least some carbon available from asteroids which could be excavated from impact craters, but that's a much more involved endeavor than just scooping up regolith into electrolytic magma refineries to extract oxygen, steel, etc.

              It may well be that any lunar colony has fossil fuels as one of its major imports - not for energy, but as a conveniently dense source of the carbon and hydrogen necessary for a growing ecology.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 10, @05:08PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @05:08PM (#1143952) Journal

      If I remember correctfully, SpaceX 3D prints their Draco engines. (The hypergolic engines on the side of Dragon 2 capsule used for emergency escape system.)

      Muck pointed this out a few years back in a video introducing and unveiling the Dragon 2 capsule.

      --
      Never use a needlessly simple solution to a problem when a much more complex solution would suffice.
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 10, @05:11PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @05:11PM (#1143953) Journal

        And 3D printed out of Inconel metal IIRC.

        SpaceX Reveals 3D-Printed Rocket Engine Parts [designnews.com]

        From this quote, I got one of my facts (above) wrong:

        The SuperDraco thruster engine is an advanced version of the current Draco engine that's used in SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft to maneuver in orbit and during re-entry.

        --
        Never use a needlessly simple solution to a problem when a much more complex solution would suffice.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:30PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @10:30PM (#1143730)

    Reusable rockets were already invented by SpaceX. What are these guys, Chinese IP thieves?

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @11:01PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @11:01PM (#1143734)

      The first reusable orbital rocket was the Shuttle, and Robert Goddard experimented with reusable suborbital rockets a hundred years ago. SpaceX didn't come up with the idea, they made it work.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @11:09PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, @11:09PM (#1143735)

        Next you're going to tell us that Tesla didn't incent the electric car. Musk hater!

        • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 10, @05:13PM

          by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @05:13PM (#1143954) Journal

          Tesla incented other auto makers to start building EVs.

          --
          Never use a needlessly simple solution to a problem when a much more complex solution would suffice.
  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Thursday June 10, @01:18AM (6 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @01:18AM (#1143754) Homepage Journal

    They can 3D print the Aeon rocket engine. They've test fired that engine. To date, they have launched nothing. They HOPE to launch something in the 3rd quarter of 2021.

    You'll understand if I don't get terribly excited yet.

    --
    alles in Ordnung
    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @02:15AM (4 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @02:15AM (#1143771)

      A working engine is the hardest part of building a working rocket. Considering that this is June, 3rd quarter starts next month. They've already leased a pad, so I would expect full-up static tests to start soon. Of course that is all for the Terran 1 and the article is about the R, but that still puts them ahead of the scam artists and into 'real rocket company' territory. And if they actually reach orbit, ahead of Blue Origin, too.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 10, @05:37PM (3 children)

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @05:37PM (#1143971) Journal

        A working engine is the hardest part of building a working rocket.

        Consider problems with Blue Origin's BE-4 engine.

        Bezos' Blue Origin to deliver first flight-ready rocket engines next summer [reuters.com]
        Dec 17, 2020

        The chief executive of United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint rocket venture between Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp, said it expects to receive two new rocket engines from billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin by next summer.

        ULA, the Pentagon’s top launch contractor for national security satellites, had initially expected the shipment in 2020 for a debut flight in early 2021, but this was delayed by development hurdles.

        Now . . .
        GAO report identifies problems with Blue Origin BE-4 engine [rocketrundown.com]
        Jun 9, 2021

        A report published by the Government Accountability Office has revealed that the development of the Blue Origin BE-4 engine is experiencing “technical challenges.”

        United Launch Alliance announced that it selected the BE-4 engine to power its Vulcan rocket on September 27, 2018. The first stage of the next-generation rocket will be powered by two BE-4 methalox engines.

        ULA’s selection of the Blue Origin engine was the result of new legislation that bans the Department of Defense from procuring launch services aboard rockets powered by Russian RD-180 engines. This meant that ULA had to look closer to home for an engine for Vulcan or lose out on the chance to bid for lucrative national security missions.

        In July 2020, the first BE-4 rocket engine was delivered to the launch provider. Described as a development pathfinder by ULA CEO Tory Bruno, the engine was seen as the prelude to the imminent delivery of the first flight-ready BE-4 rocket engines. However, close to a year later and there are no flight-ready engines in sight.

        So let me summarize:
        * ULA's existing Atlas V rocket uses Russian engines
        * DoD is barred from using Russian engines after 2022, which means no more using Atlas V
        * ULA bet its future Vulcan rocket on Blue Origin's BE-4 engine ("A working engine is the hardest part of building a working rocket.")
        * DoD gave ULA the lion's share of money and gave SpaceX the small portion because reasons
        * Blue Origin, despite being older than SpaceX, has yet to put anything into orbit, but is very excited and feverishly working toward sending Bezos on a sub orbital joyride
        * Blue Origin's BE-4 engine having "technical challenges" (see above article quote)
        * A prototype BE-4 delivered July 2020
        * Almost a year later (now) no fright certified BE-4 engine yet, GAO says "technical challenges"

        Observations:
        * If ULA can't get fright certified BE-4 engines, it can't get it's Vulcan rocket flying
        * ULA needs to launch a national security mission, but may have to use its existing and much more expensive Atlas V instead.
        * But this would have to be done by the end of 2022 for legal reasons

        Questions:
        * Even if Blue Origin could deliver fright certified BE-4 engines today, could ULA get its new Vulcan rocket working?
        * And tested! DoD rulez say that national security payloads can only fly on a rocket that has flown at least three times.
        * Can ULA even get Vulcan to have three successful flights by end of 2022?
        * Could SpaceX launch national security missions instead, even though they get less money
        * Would ULA's contract and relationship with DoD be on jeopardy?

        See how hard this is?

        Good luck to Relativity! One of the new-space companies.

        Hey Bezos: why did you hire people from old-space to ruin run Blue Origin?

        --
        Never use a needlessly simple solution to a problem when a much more complex solution would suffice.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @09:06PM (2 children)

          by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 10, @09:06PM (#1144069)

          I'm giving Blue Origin credit for their suborbital rocket since it does actually fly, and reliably at that, and Relativity hasn't quite reached that milestone yet since I don't think they've ever done a hop test.

          *If ULA can get some working engines then they should be able to get their rocket flying without much trouble. It is mostly finished and waiting for final integration testing.
          *Getting it flying on time is the big hurdle. They are already a year late and their launch cadence isn't very high but if they can get those engines soon, integration goes well, and if they move some Atlas payloads to Vulcan then they might still be able to squeeze it in.
          *The bigger question is if they can get enough working BE-4 engines for three flights by the end of 2022.
          *SpaceX is NSSL certified so if ULA falls through they can take over the contract. Expect major lawsuits if that happens, but this is why disparate redundancy is worth the extra cost.
          *If ULA can't fly Vulcan then that would put them in violation of the contract unless Congress gives them an extension on the Altas deadline. Their NSSL contract is known to have a clause allowing for such a situation. Not only could they lose their DoD preferred contractor status but the survival of the company could be put at risk.

          Yeah, it's hard, but the only reason ULA is in this position is that building their own engine is even harder.

          Blue Origin's problems run deeper than that: Bezos hired old-space because they seem to be the only people willing to work for him.

          • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday June 24, @03:08PM (1 child)

            by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 24, @03:08PM (#1148719) Journal

            I'm giving Blue Origin credit for their suborbital rocket since it does actually fly, and reliably at that

            Give them all the credit you want for their success with sub orbital joyrides.

            If ULA can get some working engines then they should be able to get their rocket flying without much trouble. It is mostly finished and waiting for final integration testing.

            I don't think it's so easy as "without much trouble". This it not like plugging a power supply in to a motherboard. Finished and awaiting integration testing sounds nice on paper or pixels, but doesn't mean everything will go smoothly without rapid unscheduled disassembly.

            My lack of confidence in Blue Origin is because:
            * they've been around longer than SpaceX
            * they are well funded
            * they deliberately and publicly claim to be the tortoise against SpaceX's hare
            * and their actions demonstrate that they are a tortoise
            * yet the hare (SpaceX) isn't taking a nap and continues to outpace the tortoise (Blue Origin)
            * BO's focus seems to continue to be on their successful sub orbital rocket -- they need to WAKE UP and MOVE ON. Abandon the sub orbital stuff and get to work on orbital with all of your resources.
            * despite embracing being the tortoise, BO seems all bent out of shape that NASA didn't give them the human lunar lander contract for more money, even though BO still can't put anything in orbit, and publicly embraces a "taking our sweet time" approach to development.

            Blue Origin's problems run deeper than that: Bezos hired old-space because they seem to be the only people willing to work for him.

            That may be true. If it is true, that says a lot about him as an employer.

            --
            Never use a needlessly simple solution to a problem when a much more complex solution would suffice.
            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, @08:39PM

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, @08:39PM (#1148898)

              Give them all the credit you want for their success with sub orbital joyrides.

              Giving credit where due or damning with faint praise. Take your pick, it cuts both ways.

              I don't think it's so easy as "without much trouble". This it not like plugging a power supply in to a motherboard. Finished and awaiting integration testing sounds nice on paper or pixels, but doesn't mean everything will go smoothly without rapid unscheduled disassembly.

              Point.

              **Tortoise and the Hare**

              BO is the Hare wearing a Tortoise suit because he doesn't understand why he lost. There was a time when they could have given SpaceX a run for their money. Instead they built a better Grasshopper and called it victory.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by coolgopher on Thursday June 10, @02:31AM

      by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Thursday June 10, @02:31AM (#1143774)

      Well, when it comes to rocket engines, the term "vaporware" takes on a whole new meaning.

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