The 3D printing robotic platform is known as Stargate and is used to manufacture Relativity’s Aeon 1 rocket engine and Terran 1 launch vehicle. (Image credit: Relativity Space via Wikipedia)
Aerospace startup Relativity Space aims to launch the world’s first 3D printed rocket into space, and then enter commercial operations by 2021. The company has recently received $185-million in venture capital funding to help get their Terran 1 launch vehicle off the ground, and have secured a spot in Cape Canaveral when it’s ready to fly. Relativity was founded by a pair of engineers from Blue Origin and SpaceX and will create their rocket using 3D printing for nearly all of its components, which will allow them to implement designs quickly with less tooling.
To help the engineers achieve their goal, they created a massive 3D printing platform known as Stargate, which features robotic arms and AI-driven controls (machine learning algorithms) to print rocket parts using the selective laser sintering method of production. The engineers have used the Stargate platform to create their nickel alloy Aeon 1 rocket engine capable of producing 15,500 pounds of thrust at sea level, and 19,500 pounds in a vacuum. Relativity has complete more than 200 test-fires using the Aeon 1 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
The Aeon 1 rocket engine was designed using 95% of 3D printed nickel alloy material. (Image credit: Relativity Space)
The Terran 1 component is still under development at this point, but it’s intended use will be as an expendable launch vehicle designed with two stages, with the first being equipped with 9 Aeon 1 engines, while the second uses a single engine. It’s expected to be around 100-feet tall and will be able to carry a maximum payload of 2,760-pounds into low-earth orbit when it’s completed.
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