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This enormous 3D printer can create entire rockets in a matter of days

Techly logo Techly 29/10/2018 Benjamin Pineros

Rocket. © Getty Rocket. Start-up company Relativity Space is developing something called “Stargate”, a 3D-printing system capable of creating an entire rocket in just days. 

Surprisingly, aerospace companies right now barely exploit 3D printing technology.

Sure, they use it to print spare parts, but corporations mainly cannibalise their launch systems to reuse as many parts as possible.

Relativity Space tends to curb this practice.

Tim Ellis, the co-founder of Relativity Space and a former rocket-propulsion engineer at Blue Origin, told Business Insider:

“Other companies, by our estimates, are 3D-printing less than 1% of their parts.”

Relativity Space’s goal is “achieving 95% by the end of 2020”.

“Rockets built and flown in days instead of years” is Stargate’s main motto, proudly featured front and centre on their website. The company is financially backed by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and counts ex-SpaceX, Tesla and Virgin Galactic employees among its ranks.

Together, they’ve already developed what they claim to be the largest metal 3D printer in the world, a mammoth machine capable of printing huge and complex rocket parts from raw material in less than 60 days.

Their tech uses proprietary materials custom-designed to withstand the stress of space flight and has the unbelievable ability to build traditionally impossible geometric shapes in one piece.

In the industry currently, complicated structures are made by welding hundreds of parts together, which takes months of effort and hours of manpower.

“We want to go from raw materials to flying a rocket in 60 days,” Ellis told Business Insider.

“Normally a lead time for producing a rocket is 12-18 months. So this is significantly faster than traditional methods for the production time. And of course 60 days later, we can produce a totally different rocket style.”

Relativity Space currently has about 40,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. The company has 35 full-time employees and 14 advisors and consultants.

“We feel like it’s inevitable that if humanity is going out to colonise other planets, 3D-printing is really the only way to manufacture things like tools and replacement parts.”

After SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, Relativity Space becomes the latest private player in the developing space travel industry.

And with an army built from the best and brightest from their competitors, Relativity Space will be a driving force in the new space race.

Stargate may just be the thing that gets them there.

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