3D Printing the Future of Aerospace
Co-founded in 2016 by Ellis and entrepreneur Jordan Noone, the California aerospace startup business specializes in manufacturing rockets through the use of 3D printing technology, artificial intelligence (AI), and autonomous robots. The startup company claims to use some of the world’s largest metal 3D printers in its Stargate factory in tandem with intelligent software and proprietary metal alloys to automate production of its Terran rockets.
Terran 1, the first rocket developed by Relative Space, can be built from raw materials and made launch-ready in under 60 days. The startup aerospace company claims that its Terran 1 is one of the most cost-effective launches available, running about $12 million per launch. Roughly 95% of the parts are printed in the Stargate facility, which greatly simplifies the supply chain involved in the construction of the spacecraft.
Now, the business plans to create the Terran R, a larger, reusable spacecraft in an attempt to compete with the Falcon 9 from Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Relative Space expects the Terran R to be capable of launching payloads in the neighborhood of 20,000 kilograms into low-earth orbit, a steep upgrade from the Terran 1’s max payload of 1,250 kilograms.
The Reusable Space Race
While Elon Musk’s Falcon 9 from SpaceX is currently partially reusable (the business is able to salvage the rocket booster as well as the nose cone), Relativity Space’s Terran R is expected to be fully reusable. SpaceX’s aerospace company is working on its own fully reusable prototype dubbed “Starship.”
While the startup company has not given an estimated cost per launch for the Terran R yet, Ellis expects the costs to be competitive in the reusable aerospace industry. The SpaceX Falcon 9 currently sports a $62 million price tag for those looking for a launch service.
Market research projects that the global aerospace market will reach $378.5 billion by 2023. Private aerospace companies like SpaceX and Relativity Space, among others including Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, will continue to propel the industry forward.
About the Author
James White is a Michigan State University graduate with a BS in Environmental Biology. He is interested in reporting emerging trends in technology, especially with regard to alternative energy and environmental conservation.