Author Topic: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor  (Read 9652 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/

Offline 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...

Offline 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.

Online 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 »

Offline 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 »

Online 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.

Offline 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 touch 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: 10/18/2017 10:28 PM by john smith 19 »
"Solids are a branch of fireworks, not rocketry. :-) :-) ", Henry Spencer 1/28/11  Averse to bold? You must be in marketing."It's all in the sequencing" K. Mattingly.  STS-Keeping most of the stakeholders happy most of the time.

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #29 on: 10/18/2017 05:08 PM »
[Bloomberg] These Giant Printers Are Meant to Make Rockets

Ashlee Vance visits the Relativity facility, includes a video interview with the founders and some footage of their equipment.

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #30 on: 10/18/2017 09:54 PM »
I was hoping for a lot more from these guys. This is quite disappointing.

Offline vaporcobra

Would not be so quick to judge. Their facilities look rather impressive and they've clearly already gone through a ton of hardware iterations. Website has a ton of photos now.
spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

Offline GWH

I was hoping for a lot more from these guys. This is quite disappointing.
They seem more like a tech development group funded by private investment than a legitimate contender in small launch. The mention of building rockets on Mars  seems more like the real end goal than being a true competitor in the next 3 years.

Hopefully they can make a run at this, 10 years from now when remote manufacturing off world could be a possibility these guys may already have all the solutions.

EDIT: OK after reading their website I take back my skepticism on them being a contender right now. $10M per flight didn't seem very good until I saw the payload at 4 times what Launcher One or Electron can offer.
« Last Edit: 10/18/2017 10:33 PM by GWH »

Offline vaporcobra

Wow, I'm extremely impressed. It is absolutely a paper rocket for the most part, but they have nevertheless done an impressive amount of hardware testing and are clearly not attempting to hide or wildly oversell (coughcougharcacough), given the photos attached below.

General
-"Our technology builds toward our long-term vision of scaling and sustaining an interplanetary society."
-"We are the second company committed to making humanity multi-planetary - and we hope to inspire hundreds more."
-"In the early days of settlement, there will be few people living on Mars. Intelligent automation and lightweight, compact 3D printing are fundamental technologies needed to quickly build a new society with scarce resources - and the most scalable means to get back home."
-a general focus on improving metallurgy to enable better 3D-printing, optimizing design with iterative simulations
-aiming for first launch by 2021

Stargate (proprietary 3D printer)
-"From raw material to flight in less than 60 days"
-"Stargate is the backbone to our vertically integrated factory."
-In-situ machining, multiple coordinated print heads for faster prints
-Already 3D-printed a prototype Terran (S2?) fuselage, 7ft x 14ft

Aeon 1 (propulsion system)
-methalox
-open expander cycle
-ISP: >360s (presumably Aeon Vac)
-Thrust: 15,500 lbf (SL), 19,500 lbf (Vac)
-Aeon Vac can be restarted in orbit
-more than 70 test fires
-fewer than 100 components
-claimed production lead time of ~15 days

Terran 1 (launch vehicle)
-$10 million per dedicated mission[/b] :'(
-S1: 9 x Aeon SL (139,500 lbf)
-S2: 1 x Aeon Vac (19,500 lbf)
-Autogenous pressurization
-Structures are a "proprietary printable metal [sic] alloy"
-"Sized for the constellation market"
-1250kg to 185km LEO
-900kg to 500km SSO
-700kg to 1200km SSO
-"capacity is uniquely flexible"

I'm very intrigued and will be following closely. Lack of even a hint of reusability is disappointing, given the multiple hat tips to SpaceX. The price of $10m is odd and rather noncompetitive, although it's several times larger than, say, Electron. It does make some amount of sense for constellation missions of multiple sats per launch, in which case it would likely be considerably more affordable than Electron/LauncherOne.

Somewhat ambiguous as to how far their hardware efforts have progressed and if they've had success. Unclear if the Aeon tested 70 times is scaled, although my money is on it and the prototype tank being full scale.

Attached the best images, the rest are in an imgur album right here --> https://imgur.com/a/Lautl
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 06:32 AM by vaporcobra »
spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #34 on: 10/19/2017 05:47 AM »
Wow, I'm extremely impressed. It is absolutely a paper rocket for the most part, but they have nevertheless done an impressive amount of hardware testing and are clearly not attempting to hide or wildly oversell (coughcougharcacough), given the photos attached below.

General
-"Our technology builds toward our long-term vision of scaling and sustaining an interplanetary society."
-"We are the second company committed to making humanity multi-planetary - and we hope to inspire hundreds more."
-"In the early days of settlement, there will be few people living on Mars. Intelligent automation and lightweight, compact 3D printing are fundamental technologies needed to quickly build a new society with scarce resources - and the most scalable means to get back home."
-a general focus on improving metallurgy to enable better 3D-printing, optimizing design with iterative simulations

Stargate (proprietary 3D printer)
-"From raw material to flight in less than 60 days"
-"Stargate is the backbone to our vertically integrated factory."
-In-situ machining, multiple coordinated print heads for faster prints
-Already 3D-printed a prototype Terran (S2?) fuselage

Aeon 1 (propulsion system)
-methalox
-open expander cycle
-ISP: >360s (presumably Aeon Vac)
-Thrust: 15,500 lbf (SL), 19,500 lbf (Vac)
-Aeon Vac can be restarted in orbit
-more than 70 test fires
-fewer than 100 components
-claimed production lead time of ~15 days

Terran 1 (launch vehicle)
-$10 million per dedicated mission[/b] :'(
-S1: 9 x Aeon SL (139,500 lbf)
-S2: 1 x Aeon Vac (19,500 lbf)
-Autogenous pressurization
-Structures are a "proprietary printable metal [sic] alloy"
-"Sized for the constellation market"
-1250kg to 185km LEO
-900kg to 500km SSO
-700kg to 1200km SSO
-"capacity is uniquely flexible"

I'm very intrigued and will be following closely. Lack of even a hint of reusability is disappointing, given the multiple hat tips to SpaceX. The price of $10m is odd and rather noncompetitive, although it's several times larger than, say, Electron. It does make some amount of sense for constellation missions of multiple sats per launch, in which case it would likely be considerably more affordable than Electron/LauncherOne.

Somewhat ambiguous as to how far their hardware efforts have progressed and if they've had success. Unclear if the Aeon tested 70 times is scaled, although my money is on it and the prototype tank being full scale.

Attached the best images, the rest are in an imgur album right here --> https://imgur.com/a/Lautl
Hmm. I am skeptical about that price per kilo.

$10m revenue @ say 70% margin for overheads leaves $3m for making and launching each rocket. At that scale they are launching off a proper pad, so that is about  $1-1.5m right there. So they are saying that the entire rocket vehicle costs $1.5-2m out the factory door. With ten engines onboard and all the subsystems - even when printed - those numbers don't hunt. Plus all the tech risks.

The engine is nice work, but I will make a bet that this burns a lot of investor money and then flames out. Not because they are evil or wildly over-promoting nothing worth discuasing (coughcoughvectorcough), but because it's not as easy as the web page makes it look.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 05:48 AM by ringsider »

Offline vaporcobra

Hmm. I am skeptical about that price per kilo.

$10m revenue @ say 70% margin for overheads leaves $3m for making and launching each rocket. At that scale they are launching off a proper pad, so that is about  $1-1.5m right there. So they are saying that the entire rocket vehicle costs $1.5-2m out the factory door. With ten engines onboard and all the subsystems - even when printed - those numbers don't hunt. Plus all the tech risks.

The engine is nice work, but I will make a bet that this burns a lot of investor money and then flames out. Not because they are evil or wildly over-promoting nothing worth discuasing (coughcoughvectorcough), but because it's not as easy as the web page makes it look.

I am far too tired to think financially ;D It's definitely intriguingly expensive. Must make some amount of sense, though.

And I agree. The last 20 years have chewed up and spit out more than a fair share of "newspace" companies with functioning propulsion and LV prototypes/testbeds. However, Relativity has Y Combinator's support and Tim Ellis seems like an awesome engineer.
spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #36 on: 10/19/2017 06:29 AM »
Hmm. I am skeptical about that price per kilo.

$10m revenue @ say 70% margin for overheads leaves $3m for making and launching each rocket. At that scale they are launching off a proper pad, so that is about  $1-1.5m right there. So they are saying that the entire rocket vehicle costs $1.5-2m out the factory door. With ten engines onboard and all the subsystems - even when printed - those numbers don't hunt. Plus all the tech risks.

The engine is nice work, but I will make a bet that this burns a lot of investor money and then flames out. Not because they are evil or wildly over-promoting nothing worth discuasing (coughcoughvectorcough), but because it's not as easy as the web page makes it look.

I am far too tired to think financially ;D It's definitely intriguingly expensive. Must make some amount of sense, though.

And I agree. The last 20 years have chewed up and spit out more than a fair share of "newspace" companies with functioning propulsion and LV prototypes/testbeds. However, Relativity has Y Combinator's support and Tim Ellis seems like an awesome engineer.


I think Noone is the engineering lead.

The economics of cutting people overhead is interesting but I'm not sure I buy it entirely. For a start, Rocket Lab has tank winding and 3D printed engines, which are broadly equivalent automation techniques. It still needs to be finished, machined, bolted, wired up and tested manually. Still plenty of labor in basic moving of stuff from a->b, hauling, lifting, connecting etc. If that could be done with less than 100 people I would be amazed. So there is a $10m overhead right there, plus all the facilities.

So how do the basic economics shift so radically? The dirty little secret of it is that they have gone for a larger vehicle, which automatically cuts the cost per kilo compared to e.g. Rocket Lab - materials and fuel are marginal.  If Rocket Lab scaled to this size I think they would have roughly the same price per kilo. Say Relativity built the same size as Rocket Lab - 150kg payload - the price per kilo would also go up by about a factor of 4-5 because the material costs are minor in the overall scheme of expenses.

But this size also increases other costs - because everything is bigger now - and it puts them in direct competition against established players who like to deliver 0.5-1 ton payloads - Avio's Vega for example.

Anyway. It's interesting but honestly I am disappointed, I really thought these guys had something novel but this isn't that big a step. Big 3D welding machines have been around for years.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 06:54 AM by ringsider »

Offline Nomic

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #37 on: 10/19/2017 08:07 AM »
No sign of turbo pumps or turbine exhaust in any of the engine photos, maybe they've just been testing the thrust chamber, rather than a full engine?

On the positive side seems a sensible design and 2021 looks like a vaguely realistic launch date, but $10 million in funding really isn't that much.

The manufacturing process and design looks very scalable, wonder if this is intended as a Falcon 1 type learner rocket and they plan to move on to something bigger?

Offline ringsider

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #38 on: 10/20/2017 12:59 PM »
Saw this image in their website:



They were founded in December 2015... That's almost 24 months. So why aren't they flying anything yet? And why are they quoting a 2021 flight date?

Because the truth is this is not their actual process.

Their actual process is very similar to everybody else for the first iteration, as they trial the engine and work out the kinks in the system. Do you think Rocket Lab and others didn't print various engines and test them?

The only advantage really comes at the operation stage (maybe). So that diagram looks more like this:-



And of course they are clearly still in the design-prototype-test-revise (blue) phase.

Why can't these companies just tell a straight story?
« Last Edit: 10/20/2017 01:08 PM by ringsider »

Offline Rik ISS-fan

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #39 on: 10/20/2017 01:20 PM »
Run four 6 month 'prototype; test; change design' iterations and 2 years have past.

Offline Katana

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Re: Relativity Space - Orbital Rockets with zero human labor
« Reply #40 on: 10/20/2017 02:48 PM »
Saw this image in their website:



They were founded in December 2015... That's almost 24 months. So why aren't they flying anything yet? And why are they quoting a 2021 flight date?

Because the truth is this is not their actual process.

Their actual process is very similar to everybody else for the first iteration, as they trial the engine and work out the kinks in the system. Do you think Rocket Lab and others didn't print various engines and test them?

The only advantage really comes at the operation stage (maybe). So that diagram looks more like this:-



And of course they are clearly still in the design-prototype-test-revise (blue) phase.

Why can't these companies just tell a straight story?
Basically they employ the same toolsets of other new space companies: 3d printing, CFD, etc, for automation.

To surpass other players on automation, they need to develop one's own 3d printing or CFD tools, more than SpaceX did. But that means way to a CAD/CAM company, since these tools have more domestic value.

If you can make rockets with “0 labor”, you can make cars or phones with “0 labor” too.

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