It was one of the largest 3D-printed metal items on Earth at 110 feet. On March 23rd night, it was a blue-white streak in the Florida sky following an explosive launch from Cape Canaveral.
Terran 1 became the first 3D printed rocket in the world to successfully launch, marking a crucial turning point for the future of space travel.
Tim Ellis (B.S. ’12, M.S. ’13) and Jordan Noone (B.S. ’14), former directors of the USC Rocket Propulsion Laboratory (RPL), co-founded Relativity Space in 2015 after a 12-year journey. Relativity Space is now valued at $4.2 billion.
Terran 1 Rocket Manufacturing
The Terran 1 rocket, which is 85 percent made using 3D printing, portends significant improvements for the space industry in terms of price, speed, reduced waste, and improved design efficiency.
The “Good Luck, Have Fun” launch achieved a number of firsts despite failing to reach space on its initial attempt, a feat that no private space enterprise has been able to pull off.
According to the company: “Today’s launch proved Relativity’s 3D-printed rocket technologies that will enable our next vehicle, Terran R. We successfully made it through Max-Q, the highest stress state on our printed structures.
This is the biggest proof point for our novel additive manufacturing approach. Today is a huge win, with many historic firsts. We also progressed through main engine cutoff and stage separation. We will assess flight data and provide public updates over the coming days.”
Said Noone: “Relativity’s 3D printing approach with Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed rocket, draws forward aerospace manufacturing into the digital era. This launch opens the door for all the potential future applications of that development, such as human space flight.”
The CEO of Relativity, Ellis, claims that Relativity employs less parts than typical rockets, which can have tens of thousands or perhaps millions.
The business employs its enormous Stargate 3D printers to construct the engines and the main structure of Terran 1, with the aim of 3D printing 95% of its future rockets.
The business wants to produce a rocket from scratch every 60 days, like a crossed-out Model T assembly line from the future.
Ellis and Noone had to develop sophisticated manufacturing in addition to building a rocket to make this a reality.
The Stargate, the largest metal 3D printer in the world, had to be built first in order to 3-D print rockets.
The fourth generation Stargate printers, which defy conventional printing limitations by travelling horizontally rather than vertically, are named after a 26th Century device in the video game “StarCraft.”
Even though Relativity continues to produce rockets, Ellis believes that one day he will be able to 3D print every piece of equipment needed to support the first Martian colonists, including “the first rocket made on Mars.”
To read our blog on “Vikram-S, India’s first private rocket, is launched into space,” click here.