We can 3-D print toys, food, houses, PPE supplies, tools and a number o other things. What about rockets? That’s the goal of Relativity Space, an American company trying to 3-D print something as large and complex as a controlled explosion. The company was started by engineers from Blue Origin and SpaceX who were interested in applying 3-D printing to space travel. Their first step in feasibly proving the concept they have developed is to launch their rocket. The first one that they will use is the Terran 1 and it will launch in 2021. The difference that Relativity offers is that their rockets are significantly cheaper than any other competitor. The Aeon 1 rocket engine they use is not as powerful as the Merlin engine SpaceX uses but is not a very complex engine and it can be made in just 20 days since it only has 100 parts. This also enables them to produce and launch rockets within 60 days, a turnover rate inconceivable to major government projects. They’ve already done over 100 test firings of their Aeon 1 engine in Mississippi at the NASA John C. Stennis Space Center.
To print their rockets, the company uses a specialized set of robots in more of a complex of 3-D printers to create everything. They use a laser to fuse metal layer by layer into finished projects through a process called selective laser sintering. The 3-D printing complex is called Stargate. The company currently has secured a contract to begin launching satellites at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in addition to their launch site in Cape Canaveral.
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