July 27, 2021

SpaceX: Is there a threat of competition from the 3D printer?

There could be competition soon: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

GThe aviation company Relativity Space, which was founded in 2015, recently raised 650 million US dollars (about 534 million euros) from investors to produce a rocket using 3D printing. It should compete with the market leader SpaceX from 2024. According to a report by the Consumer News and Business Channels (CNBC), however, this is not the young US company’s first flight object. So it wants to have the Terran 1 take off at the end of 2021, which is the best-selling rocket before the launch due to numerous pre-orders. As Relativity Space announced in a press release, it uses, among other things, five large 3D printers for their construction.

Double speed print head

The modern printer will also be used for the imposing successor Terran R. According to CNBC, the company has therefore developed a new 3D printing head that is expected to more than double the production speed. The dimensions of the flying object suggest that it will have a lot to do. With a planned height of around 65 meters, it should be similar in size to current Falcon 9 missiles when completed. Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s spacecraft would even exceed the target diameter of around five meters.

Focus on reusability

As with Musk’s company, according to CEO Tim Ellis, reusability is a priority when building the rocket parts. The aim is to have the same flying object take off hundreds or even thousands of times in the long term. This creates challenges, especially with the so-called second stage, the rocket head. Therefore, it should be made of metal, which is rather unusual for a 3D printer, and which can withstand the high temperatures when re-entry. A feat that even Musk has not yet succeeded in doing.