CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Why spend millions of dollars to build a rocket when you can just print one? A group of space engineers will put that question to the test when they launch the first-ever rocket designed by 3-D technology.
"We are introducing additive printing and 3-D printing as the technology that we are looking to go for, for the future," explained Patrick Svatek, launch site director for the California-based company Relativity Space.
This will be space history in the making as this first-of-its-kind rocket is simplifying what normally takes two years or more to build. The rocket is presently on a launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida. It stands 110 feet tall and is roughly 85% 3-D printed.
A traditional rocket has 100,000-plus parts, and usually requires a 24-month build time which can be complicated when supply chain issues arise. A 3-D printed rocket typically has less than 1,000 parts, takes two months to construct, and is less vulnerable to supply chain issues.
Svatek said there is one disadvantage: a traditional rocket is tried and tested for years, but a 3-D printed rocket will have trial and error.
"You know it is great, the technology changes so fast and the applications can be endless," he explained. "So we are just looking at how we can adapt this technology and the desire and passion with the upcoming technology and stem programs that are out there and really drive that enthusiasm into the workforce."
Right now, the company is in its final phase of testing and checkouts before they get the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Space Force to launch from Complex 16.
"It has taken a while to get here – a lot of people across the company, a lot of contracts, and government support to get to this point, and it is super exciting," Svatek said. "The energy here that you feel today, the last few days, is incredible."