Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, the fully 3D printed Terran 1 rocket represents the first phase of the company’s vision of radically simplifying its supply chain by fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, proprietary software, and autonomous robotics. After raising well over half a billion dollars and building some of the largest robotic metal DED machines in the world, Relativity has now moved to place the Terran 1 rocket’s Stage 1, a fully 3D printed tank, onto the test stand. Besides the fact that it’s a fully 3D printed rocket, Stage 1 now stands vertically as the tallest metal 3D printed structure ever built.
With a completely novel, top-down approach to 3D printing production, Relativity has created a new tech stack for aerospace that utilizes software-driven manufacturing, exotic materials and unique design geometries that are not possible in traditional manufacturing, driving unprecedented innovation and disruption in the industry. With continued high demand for Terran 1, Relativity has already secured nine launch contracts from both private and government customers.
The Stage 1 3D printed tank structure underwent hydro proof testing, cryogenic proof testing, flight pressure and testing. It is not, however, the only part of the Terran 1 rocket that is 3D printed. The nosecone is also 3D printed, marking the first time Relativity has created this unique shape using 3D printing and no fixed tooling.
While stacking the rocket up on the test launch pad is far from actually launching it into orbit, the feat is impressive nonetheless, much like SpaceX’s recently stacked massive Starship rocket. The 3D printed Stage 1 structure is enormous. It is not 100% clear if Relativity was printed as a single structure using it’s robotic systems or if it was printed in multiple parts that were welded together.
The fact that it’s a propellant tank seems to indicate that it would be a single part, making it even more impressive. Even if it is a single part, it remains to be seen if its 3D printed structure will truly be able to withstand the hardships and enormous pressures of launch, but if it did it would be truly revolutionary for implementing AM in space applications.
Relativity and its many investors are sure that it will, as the comapmy has already laid out plans for its next reusable rocket, the Terran R, a two-stage, 216-foot-tall rocket with a 16-foot diameter, and a 5-meter payload fairing, capable of launching 20,000kg to low Earth orbit (LEO), starting in 2024 at the company’s launch site in Cape Canaveral.