3D printing is touted to be one the most groundbreaking technologies of this generation, being able to print out a range of objects that usually require tedious manufacture and assembly. It significantly reduces the time and cost of manufacture, not to mention labor. 3D printing startups have already received millions in funding from various investors and venture capitalists, which has helped improve the technology. But, there are limits to what can be ‘printed out’, instead of manufactured. However, a company named Relativity Space wants to push the boundaries of 3D printing, by printing out rockets. Yes, rockets that can carry satellites.
The space race of the 1960s till the early nineties was between nations competing for dominance. That race is now as hot as ever, with private corporations racing to do what rival nations once did.
Founded by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone (both worked for Blue Origin and SpaceX respectively), Relativity Space has received $35 million in funding from leading venture capitalists and also a contract from the US government to build a rocket launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Additionally, the company also bagged a lease at the John C. Stennis Space Centre, a rocket testing facility that belongs to NASA.
The company claims to have developed a 3D printer of metals, called Stargate which is powered by AI and uses laser sintering to join metals into desired structures. The company aims to build a fully 3D printed rocket that can carry payloads of 1,250 kilograms to orbits at 185 kilometers above the earth. Relativity wants to bring down the price of a launch to $10 million. It will be interesting to see how the startup fares, especially amidst stiff competition from giants like SpaceX, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance. This could rewrite the rules of space exploration.