UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) – The SpaceX Ilona Mask company plans to send people to Mars and colonize the Red Planet. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos also has plans for space exploration with his Blue Origin company.
Even NASA is working hard to create the Space Launch System rocket for manned expeditions beyond Earth orbit.
Surrounded by these giants, the not-so-well-known among the masses Relativity Space works. “We believe that if humanity is going to colonize other planets, 3D printing is really the only way to produce such things as tools and spare parts,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder of Relativity Space, in an interview with Business Insider. Ellis is an aeronautical and space-rocket engineering engineer who previously worked for Blue Origin.
Space colonization is a distant prospect for Relativity Space, since the launches of the first spacecraft capable of reaching Mars are scheduled no earlier than 2020. There is time to get ready.
Ellis introduced 3D printing technology at work in Blue Origin to create various special parts quickly and cheaply. “It gave me the realization that 3D printing is the future of rockets,” he said. “This technology has significantly saved time in this completely new process of creating rockets.”
Despite the fact that the space industry is very conservative, it is 3D printing that may be an ideal substitute for time-consuming manipulations, since it allows you to create very complex devices in just one operation.
In 2015, NASA engineers printed a full-scale nozzle for a rocket engine using the selective laser sintering method, and in March 2018 at the Marshall Center they conducted firing tests of the engine printed using improved technology, which reduced the production time.
The method of three-dimensional printing by metal — the method of laser sintering — consists in the fact that a powder of particles 40–60 microns in size is poured layer by layer from a container.
Then the laser beam “traces” the contour of the product, and those particles that fall under the laser beam are fused. Then the next layer is poured And so the detail is formed in layers. In some cases, an electron beam can be used instead of a laser beam.
Relativity Space is planning to develop a rocket fully printed on a 3D printer. This is a massive use of parts created by the technology of selective laser sintering using a specially developed 3D printer based on Kuka robotic manipulators.
The rockets printed using the 3D printer will consist of a minimum number of large fragments, and not of many details. The cost of this option is much lower, because the rocket, produced in the usual way, has 100 thousand parts, and the innovative method provides for only 1 thousand.
The rockets will be used to deliver the payload to orbit, however, the volumes and capacity of the cargo are immediately declared small: the carrier will be able to put into the Earth orbit only 1250 kg of cargo.
That is, we are talking about a one-time, simple start-up costing less than $ 10 million available to any customer – in this niche a startup simply has no competitors. NASA became interested in a start-up and signed a cooperation agreement with Relativity Space, and also provided the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for testing.
The first step is to test the Aeon rocket engine, which will print the 3D printer. Production time is 20 days, which speeds up the process of production and testing, besides the number of parts of the engine is reduced to 100 pieces.
The company intends to put nine units of such engines on its Terran rocket in 2020, and next year the first rocket will be launched. On Earth, 3D printers are already coping not only with small products, but with whole houses.
A similar experience is proposed to apply when creating extraterrestrial settlements or scientific bases. A 3D printer on Mars can help colonists build houses and other structures. According to the assurances of the Relativity Space, their system can use Martian mud to quickly build reliable homes.