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World’s first 3D-printed rocket to blast off from Florida


An ambitious plan to send cargo into space is on a 3D-printed rocket.

The rocket launched from Florida on Wednesday looks a lot like the others, but at its core is a subtle gift. “Printed in USA”

It’s the largest metal object ever 3D printed, say those behind its creation.

The ship was created by Relativity Space, a California company that wants to revolutionize the way the world builds rockets. Its creators have used huge 3D printers that can make huge parts, and can print similar rockets, including engines, in just 60 days.

“So 85 percent of the mass of the rocket that’s on the platform now is 3D printed,” said Josh Brost, senior vice president of revenue operations at Relativity Space.

In addition to being the world’s first 3D printed rocket, it is potentially the first rocket to use liquid oxygen and liquid methane engines, Brost said, describing them as “the engines of the future that will be reusable rockets.”

Such a ship could be put together in a fraction of the time and cost a quarter, according to Relativity Space.

Because the 10-story rocket is mostly printed, it has 100 times fewer parts, according to its creators. It was designed to carry small satellites into space for customers like NASA.

Its engines have been tested extensively, but Wednesday’s launch will be the first time the company attempts to reach orbit.

“We have the opportunity to demonstrate an entirely new way of manufacturing large aerospace systems that has the potential to make space access cheaper, more frequent and more reliable. And it will definitely have a positive impact on people’s lives on Earth for years to come,” Brost said.

“Things are looking great and the team is feeling good and excited to get the chance to test the system in flight.”

The company’s goals for the first flight include proving that the 3D-printed rocket can survive conditions, including first-stage ascent, which Brost describes as the “maximum dynamic pressure point.”

“Going through that will be the final confirmation that our 3D printed structures are up to the task of launching the launch system,” he said.

“Many firsts on 3D printing and demonstrating the viability of that technology.”

The company hopes this project is just the beginning. It is also planning a much larger and more reusable rocket that will be 95 percent 3D printed, with the hope that this craft will eventually travel to Mars.

Hoping to boldly go where no printed object has gone before, those behind the rocket aptly named its first mission “Good Luck, Have Fun.”

With files from Reuters and The Associated Press

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