Author Topic: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor  (Read 7078 times)

Offline bregallad

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Saw this article today and was wondering what you guys think of this new startup.
What the likelihood of the zero human labor?
Other than 3D printing, what other tech would allow this?

http://www.geekwire.com/2016/relativity-space-blue-origin-spacex-stealth/

Online jongoff

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #1 on: 08/22/2016 07:02 PM »
The interesting thing is that one of the founders was an intern of mine at Masten, right before I left to start Altius. Really talented engineer, but I have no particular insights into their business model or how they were able to raise the kind of money they've raised so far. It'll be interesting to see more details.

~Jon

Offline whitelancer64

If the logo is any clue, their plan is to produce rockets via mitosis.
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Offline bregallad

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #3 on: 08/23/2016 12:34 PM »
Link to their website:
http://relativityspace.com/

Not much on there unfortunately...

Online Lars-J

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #4 on: 08/29/2016 07:40 AM »
To be credible, don't you have to demonstrate the capability of building orbital rockets with *some* human labor first?

Offline NaN

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #5 on: 08/30/2016 12:49 AM »
This must entail a new definition of the word "zero". Even industries which actually mass-produce their products have some human labor in the loop.
I suspect we just heard their vision - what they are driving for while knowing they can't actually reach it - without hearing anything relevant about actual execution plans. This leaves us little basis for judging much of anything. $10 million isn't chump change, so they clearly convinced some angels they were worth some risk.

Offline meekGee

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #6 on: 08/30/2016 04:24 AM »
Maybe they are talking about operations, not fabrication.

So once you have a rocket, it can launch, land, get hauled back to the pad, refueled, repeat - with zero labor.

Not trivial, but certainly easier than zero-labor fabrication.
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 05:46 PM by meekGee »
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Offline bregallad

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #7 on: 08/30/2016 12:13 PM »
Designing a booster from scratch is no trivial thing. I am doubtful that they will succeed in that given the current and projected future competitiveness in the industry. However, that doesn't mean that they will necessarily fail. If they succeed in developing reliable new manufacturing techniques for rocket component manufacturing, that product has a lot of value. Something like an extremely large 3d printer with high accuracy.
What else can be improved when we look at how certain parts of a rocket are manufactured?
« Last Edit: 08/30/2016 12:49 PM by bregallad »

Offline ringsider

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« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 03:15 PM by ringsider »

Online jongoff

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #9 on: 01/11/2017 09:19 AM »
http://www.geekwire.com/2016/relativity-space-blue-origin-spacex-stealth/

This article was from back in July. Is there any more recent information? Tim Ellis was one of the two interns at Masten the summer I left to start Altius. Really smart and talented kid, but when I saw the $10M fundraise and what they're publicly saying they're doing, it had me scratching my head. But I'd love to hear any updates if there are any.

~Jon

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #10 on: 01/11/2017 09:44 AM »
http://www.geekwire.com/2016/relativity-space-blue-origin-spacex-stealth/

This article was from back in July. Is there any more recent information? Tim Ellis was one of the two interns at Masten the summer I left to start Altius. Really smart and talented kid, but when I saw the $10M fundraise and what they're publicly saying they're doing, it had me scratching my head. But I'd love to hear any updates if there are any.

~Jon
Sorry I have no direct insight into what they do, only guesses (see below).

Their hiring pattern and statements seem to indicate using robots and 3D printing to build the vehicles. I did wonder if they target the smallest possible orbital vehicle, just big enough to orbit a 5kg 3U or something like that. That would make the manufacturing scale and quantites / volume suitable for a CAD/CAM, industrial robot and 3D printing line, and would match their practical experience at USC RPL, which was all small-scale rocketry. With a couple of printers and 4-5 robots you could have a decent assembly line for $3-4m.

Scaling -down- would have a lot of cost advantages if you could automate the production processes. Smaller size is also less costly to develop, launch, transport etc. You could easily see how they get a very very small rocket onto a one-a-week schedule (or more) because the entire problem is much more manageable.

If you charge say $300k-$350k per launch, each being fully dedicated to one single payload (which by the way makes payload integration much easier) that is a sustainable $15-20m pa business model with low staff overheads and a fairly strong margin.

If that is the model - and frankly that would make a lot of sense given how quiet they are being, because it is relatively easy to copy - then Masten should probably look at it too, as those guys could get there first.

Here's a video of Tim Ellis talking about his philosophy:-



Vanilla stuff but it might give some insight to what he has in mind.
« Last Edit: 01/11/2017 05:13 PM by ringsider »

Offline HMXHMX

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #11 on: 01/11/2017 09:36 PM »
http://www.geekwire.com/2016/relativity-space-blue-origin-spacex-stealth/

This article was from back in July. Is there any more recent information? Tim Ellis was one of the two interns at Masten the summer I left to start Altius. Really smart and talented kid, but when I saw the $10M fundraise and what they're publicly saying they're doing, it had me scratching my head. But I'd love to hear any updates if there are any.

~Jon
Sorry I have no direct insight into what they do, only guesses (see below).

Their hiring pattern and statements seem to indicate using robots and 3D printing to build the vehicles. I did wonder if they target the smallest possible orbital vehicle, just big enough to orbit a 5kg 3U or something like that. That would make the manufacturing scale and quantites / volume suitable for a CAD/CAM, industrial robot and 3D printing line, and would match their practical experience at USC RPL, which was all small-scale rocketry. With a couple of printers and 4-5 robots you could have a decent assembly line for $3-4m.

Scaling -down- would have a lot of cost advantages if you could automate the production processes. Smaller size is also less costly to develop, launch, transport etc. You could easily see how they get a very very small rocket onto a one-a-week schedule (or more) because the entire problem is much more manageable.

If you charge say $300k-$350k per launch, each being fully dedicated to one single payload (which by the way makes payload integration much easier) that is a sustainable $15-20m pa business model with low staff overheads and a fairly strong margin.

If that is the model - and frankly that would make a lot of sense given how quiet they are being, because it is relatively easy to copy - then Masten should probably look at it too, as those guys could get there first.

Here's a video of Tim Ellis talking about his philosophy:-



Vanilla stuff but it might give some insight to what he has in mind.


I didn't have time to view the video, but I wonder if he addressed the problem of range fees (which alone of other costs can be easily 2x-4x $300-350K)?

Offline Lar

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #12 on: 01/11/2017 09:48 PM »
Is it possible to find a place to launch from that would not be in conflict with existing ranges, so their own range could be built? (This is the approach SpaceX seems to be taking with Boca Chica)
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Offline Davidthefat

Is it possible to find a place to launch from that would not be in conflict with existing ranges, so their own range could be built? (This is the approach SpaceX seems to be taking with Boca Chica)

Are they not taking the Ursa Major Technologies route by putting technologies on the market that other companies can buy to be used on their launch vehicle? Or are they going for the full on launch service?

Offline Lar

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #14 on: 01/12/2017 03:49 AM »
Is it possible to find a place to launch from that would not be in conflict with existing ranges, so their own range could be built? (This is the approach SpaceX seems to be taking with Boca Chica)

Are they not taking the Ursa Major Technologies route by putting technologies on the market that other companies can buy to be used on their launch vehicle? Or are they going for the full on launch service?

Can't tell but I'm keying off what Jongoff speculated.
"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #15 on: 04/30/2017 02:45 PM »
Found out some more about Relativity Space - the size and type of rocket:-

----

[00:20:21] Scott Aughenbaugh: What early success story does not get enough attention?

[00:20:24] Jay Harrison: The one that I don’t think gets enough—even internal recognition—and so therefor I will use this as an opportunity to talk about it is the one that we did with Relativity Space. So MD5 has been engaged with a really early stage project we call Fulcrum, which is working with Y Combinator portfolio companies, Y Combinator being one of the largest and most well-known and most successful accelerators on the West Coast. Working with Y Combinator portfolio companies who are developing products relevant to national security missions and then providing those companies with unique access to DoD laboratory infrastructure that support the development objectives for their products. So, part of the reason that we do this obviously is to increase DoD’s visibility and insight into a product that we can potentially be leveraging for our missions. The other thing that's equally important, that by inviting these innovative early stage startups into DoD laboratories, we're enriching the exposure of DoD scientists and engineers to some emerging technologies that they need to be aware of and they need to be working with. So, it provides not only a technology type of advantage for DoD, it also provides this human capital workforce development advantage for our laboratory personnel.

So in the case of Relativity Space, working through MD5, we were able to open up some pretty unique infrastructure to them that they otherwise would not have had access to. And I should say this company is building a 12 thousand pound, liquid-fueled, 3d printed, rocket engine, so 3D printed makes it really cost-effective and flexible from a manufacturing standpoint. Ahh but, you can’t test a 12 thousand pound, liquid-fueled rocket in your backyard. You have all these considerations related to instrumentation, related to infrastructure, related to fire suppression, related to noise-abatement, related to zoning restrictions. It's a not an easy lift for a startup to address all these considerations. And I think at the end of the day we projected by making the DoD rocket testing infrastructure available to this startup we saved them over 2 million dollars of costs that they would have otherwise had to ask their investors to cover.

And we did that, in effect, without having to invest any of DoD’s money. It was making infrastructure that was available, accessible to this startup. DoD secured all the data from the testing in a proprietary way—we're not making that data available to other people. We're now familiar with the technology and can make decisions as to whether this is a technology that we want to work with this company to leverage in the future. So, I think too much of the argument up to this point around how DoD attracts startups to do business with us has focused on how do we make our contracts easier for startups to use. I think that may in fact be the least interesting opportunity that we can represent to a startup. I think a more interesting opportunity is how do we make all this technology—how do we make all this infrastructure—available to these early stage startups or entrepreneurs, so they come in our network in a semi-permanent kind of way and we can work with them throughout their careers. It’s not transactional, again, it’s more of a longer-term type relationship that we hope to build through programs like this.

Source: http://inss.ndu.edu/commentary/Article/1130953/what-is-military-district-5-md5-podcast/

----

Not sure if he means the rocket overall is 12000 lb or if the engine is 12000 lbf.... I am guessing the former, about 5.5 metric tons, because 12000 lbf is almost 55kn. Sounds like they have already tested it as well, in secret.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 04:55 PM by ringsider »

Offline Patchouli

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #16 on: 04/30/2017 05:59 PM »
I'm not so sure about this and feel it shouldn't be taken seriously.
I looked at a the site and all I saw is the usual kind of video and musical score you on kick starter pages.
No video of an engine under test not diagrams of the LV etc.

The claim of zero human labor seems a little outrageous too significantly reduced would be much more realistic.
« Last Edit: 04/30/2017 06:08 PM by Patchouli »

Offline Davidthefat

I'm not so sure about this and feel it shouldn't be taken seriously.
I looked at a the site and all I saw is the usual kind of video and musical score you on kick starter pages.
No video of an engine under test not diagrams of the LV etc.

The claim of zero human labor seems a little outrageous too significantly reduced would be much more realistic.

I'd certainly take this team a lot more seriously than certain other companies that publish renderings and mock ups... Given Relativity's personnel's previous experiences.

Offline Ragmar

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #18 on: 05/02/2017 03:24 PM »
While MD5 is younger, the involvement of Y Combinator should be noticed as they're essentially the most powerful VC and hard to get backing from. 

Offline meberbs

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #19 on: 07/13/2017 03:30 PM »
Tim Ellis is speaking to a Senate subcommittee today. There are a couple tidbits about relativity that he included in his statement.

The parts that were new to me were:
-methalox engine
-over 6 dozen hotfires with testing ongoing

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #20 on: 07/15/2017 09:06 PM »
Tim Ellis is speaking to a Senate subcommittee today. There are a couple tidbits about relativity that he included in his statement.

The parts that were new to me were:
-methalox engine
-over 6 dozen hotfires with testing ongoing

Some big claims in that document.

Online TrevorMonty

Good find Meberbs.
Some other takes from it

Looking at launching from drone ships/barges to get around lack of launch sites.
Want Venture class polar orbit launch site at Vandenberg.
Long term lease of stennis engine test stands.


Offline Jim

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #22 on: 07/15/2017 10:32 PM »
Zero labor for operations is nonsense.  Airliners still need touch labor.  Even automated systems still need human oversight

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #23 on: 07/16/2017 08:26 AM »


Pic turned up in a Google search, apparently from the LinkedIn profile of one of their engineers.

That looks like a 3D printed structure.

Interestingly they are listed in California business registration under:

"Aerospace Castings, Aluminum."
« Last Edit: 07/16/2017 08:50 AM by ringsider »

Offline imprezive

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #24 on: 07/16/2017 05:11 PM »
Zero labor for operations is nonsense.  Airliners still need touch labor.  Even automated systems still need human oversight

I would assume they mean zero touch labor. I think it's definitely possible with today's technology. However it would be enormously expensive and studies I've seen show the humans and robots working together are the most effective manufacturing method. It seems like a questionable business and engineering case if that's really their goal. However more power to them if they can do it.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #25 on: 07/17/2017 07:02 PM »
So:

List of Active Space Act Agreements (as of December 31, 2016) with Domestic Commercial, State Local Government, and Non-profit Partners

SSAA-1053-0118
1124
23377
Relativity Space, Incorporated
Annex One Relativity Space Aeon 1 Engine Start Test Project
8/23/2016
8/23/2017
Reimbursable
SSC

=====

SSAA-1053-0117
1125
23376
Relativity Space, Incorporated
Reimbursable Space Act Umbrella Agreement
Relativity Space Incorporated Aeon 1 Launch Systems Development
8/23/2016
8/23/2020
Reimbursable
SSC

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #26 on: 08/11/2017 12:04 PM »
I heard a rumor that they are developing an aerospike at Stennis.

« Last Edit: 08/11/2017 12:05 PM by ringsider »

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #27 on: 08/20/2017 09:46 PM »
Short interview with one of the engineers:-

http://mitsloan.mit.edu/newsroom/articles/building-rockets-with-zero-human-labor/


Relativity Space has its sights set on an interplanetary future.

Rocket engineer John Rising has no doubt that humans will colonize other planets. And, with a little help from MIT Sloan, he is working to make that happen.

Rising is the lead for vehicle systems at the rocket startup Relativity Space, a company so steeped in secrecy that even its own website offers few details about what the business does.

Rising cannot share a lot of details about what the company is doing, but he does say that it is developing a lean, automated manufacturing system designed to greatly speed up rocket production. “One of the big challenges in the rocket launch industry is that it can take years to build a rocket, whereas we are building a vehicle in a completely reimagined way that will allow us to produce it … significantly faster, on the order of weeks … and this gives us a competitive advantage,” Rising said.

Interplanetary existence
Relativity Space has its sights firmly set on an interplanetary future. “In the long term, as a company, we believe off-planet manufacturing will require many of the methods and tools we’re developing,” Rising said.
« Last Edit: 08/20/2017 09:46 PM by ringsider »

Offline john smith 19

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #28 on: 08/21/2017 09:22 AM »
Hmmm

So they seem to have a 12 000lb Methalox engine for the first stage and it may (or may not) be clustered for a payload of about 5Kg to LEO.

But their big USP is zero tough labor during assembly?

As HMX observed there are a lot of hidden costs to a real launch (like the range fees, which IIRC are still 1 size fits all, regardless of the LV size, one of things that drove the Orbital Pegasus design).

This is obviously another attempt to address the question "Why is the cost of launch so high?"

I can (kind of ) see the logic (it's much better than lowering the cost of the propellant, which in cost terms is irrelevant) although the question is how do you implement this?

I've always quite liked centrifugal casting (embed the stiffener pattern, and any standard features in the mold, dross and air bubbles migrate to the inner surface and are machined off), available in the US for up to 8m diameters. Not quite enough for ITS or SLS,  but adequate for most peoples launch vehicle needs.  :)
   
The other interesting option would be implementing it as forged rings. Not so big a diameter but metal quality is the best available, and in principle internal and external feature patterns possible. 

Metal tanks side step any issues with composites and cryogenic propellants.

Time will tell if making an item that's disposed of after one use in a truly "disposable" way will lower the cost.  :(
« Last Edit: 08/21/2017 09:24 AM by john smith 19 »
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