Startup to Build Fully 3D Printed Rocket

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The latest trend in tech startups is who can get to space the fastest and the cheapest. So it’s no surprise that 3D printing techniques have been slowly filtering into the now-highly-competitive space, and a recent profile in Forbes might have you cheering for a couple of young engineers at a company called Relativity Space.

Or maybe you’ll be cheering against them because the way they got their first funding dollars sounds almost too easy to be real: Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone were a couple of college buddies working for Blue Origin and SpaceX, respectively when they decided that fully 3D printing a rocket was a foregone conclusion. They wanted to start their own company to pursue it, but with no access to capital, what does one do? Well, email Mark Cuban of course.

The duo somehow managed to “guess” Cuban’s email, sent him a pitch and asked for an investment of $100,000, tantamount to about a fifth of their necessary seed money. Cuban emailed back and said no – he’d fund the whole thing.

Forbes says Relativity Space is taking the emerging 3D printed rocket components trend and sending it into overdrive, building massive 3D printers to take on the Herculean task of a fully additive rocket.

While the company will be facing a lot of competition in the now-popular "space" space, it does have some competitive advantages – primarily cost and time. The from-scratch plan for the Relativity Space rocket Terran 1 is for it to go from raw material to space-ready in less than 60 days. One aerospace analyst says that the Terran 1 is also anticipated to be one of the cheapest rockets out there.

And since Mark Cuban got on board, so have many others. The company is said to have raised nearly $45 million in funding to date and now has 25 employees. So far, it’s built several printers, as well as a fully 3D-printed engine that Forbes says, has been tested at the NASA Stennis Space Center, where it’s been fired more than 100 times. Ellis says a commercial launch could be as soon as 2020 and, despite being in an industry that tends to get mired in delays, these guys just might do it.

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