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3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space

3D-printed rockets could mean cheaper trips to space
[Photo: NASA on Unsplash]

Many of us have dreamed of building a rocketship in our backyard, but we never dreamed a giant 3D printer could make that possible. Relativity Space wants to cut the going rate for a rocket launch from about $100 million to around $10 million, Bloomberg reports, all thanks to 3D printing.

Relativity isn’t the only space company using 3D printers. Rocket Labs, one of our Most Innovative Companies in the space industry, 3D prints its engines. But Relativity wants to print whole rockets.

Founded by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone–who honed their chops at Blue Origin and SpaceX respectively–the company has figured out that when it comes to building a rocket, “80 to 90 percent of the cost is labor.” To reduce costs, they built their own 3D printers capable of building a fuel tank in just a few days, and an engine in only 1.5 weeks. If things go as planned, they hope to be able to build an entire rocket in less than a month. The whole process costs less than traditional rocket-building, because it cuts out the pesky humans-need-paychecks-and-overtime factor. While we’re all for humans having jobs, cheaper rockets mean cheaper space travel.

Still, the company has a long way to go: It successfully test-fired its printed engine at a NASA facility in Mississippi earlier this year. It hopes to print a 90-foot rocket with 2,000 pounds of carrying capacity by mid-2020, and then launch a prototype by 2021.ML