Aerospace startup Relativity Space has been granted a new patent for its autonomous 3D printing technology. The patent covers the company’s innovative machine-learning metal additive manufacturing platform which it leverages to produce rockets and launch vehicles for space.
The news of the AM patent follows a recent announcement by the L.A.-based startup in which it revealed a deal with the U.S. Air Force to launch rockets from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Though no launch date has been divulged, the first rocket to be launched by Relativity will be the Terran 1, a medium-sized, low-Earth orbit launch vehicle with a maximum payload of 1,250 kg.
Relativity Space’s new patent—US20180341248A1—relates to its breakthrough metal 3D printing process which utilizes advances sensors and control software for autonomous additive manufacturing. The process isolates Relativity as the first and only aerospace company to use proprietary (and now patented) autonomous 3D printing technology, machine learning and software to practically reinvent the rocket manufacturing process.
Jordan Noone, CTO of Relativity, stated: “The grant of this patent is a recognition of how our autonomous 3D metal printing technology can quickly and iteratively optimize rocket production on Earth and other planets, and is a pivotal step towards our technology differentiation and leadership in the market.”
The proprietary process is capable of 3D printing rockets (and specifically the Terran 1 rocket) in under 60 days—a dramatically shorter timeframe than traditional rocket production, which can take more than 18 months. 3D printing has also enabled the company to consolidate rocket components: the Terran 1—made entirely of 3D printed parts—consists of 100x fewer parts than traditional rockets.
In addition to the patent announcement, Relativity has also appointed three aerospace veterans to its executive team: Tim Buzza, Josh Brost and David Giger. The company now employs 12 former senior leaders from SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Orbit, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Waymo, Zoox and Tesla.
Tim Buzza, an expert in rocket development who served as an executive of SpaceX for 12 years, as well as Co-President and Vice President of Launch at Virgin Orbit, is now the Distinguished Engineer at Relativity.
Joshua Brost, a nine-year veteran of SpaceX who spearheaded $3 billion of U.S. government and commercial contracts for the company, is joining Relativity as the Vice President of Government Business Development. And David Giger, who worked at SpaceX for 13 years directing engineering, program and leadership responsibilities for the multi-billion dollar Cargo Dragon and Crew Dragon programs, has been named the Vice President of Launch Vehicle Development for the Terran 1 rocket.
“Our progress towards launching the first 3D printed rocket is fueled by a deeply experienced team that has built and scaled other space companies, and Tim, Josh, and David are renowned leaders in their fields,” said Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity. “These executive appointments, combined with our recent patent grant, are great indicators of Relativity’s market momentum.”