Author Topic: Relativity Space - Terran R  (Read 131942 times)

Offline Vultur

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #60 on: 06/09/2021 06:23 am »
Starship marginal launch cost target is $2M,

Starship is aspired to cost $1.5 million per launch

Wait, really???

Admittedly "marginal launch cost" isn't *real* cost, much less real price, but that seems crazy low.

I was assuming the long-term aspirational goal was in the upper single digit millions (based on Musk's old comments about $500,000 per ticket and 100 people per Starship; that's $50 million/Starship to Mars, but including tankers, maybe $5-10 million per launch).

I tend to think it will take quite a while for Starship launch cadence to get really high, too.

Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #61 on: 06/09/2021 06:24 am »
I don't know that there is much point relitigating the Starship vs. Smaller rocket question here. Primarily because, at least in the past several posts, I don't think anyone has managed to add anything new to that conversation.

Some on this forum believe that Starship will manage to clear the market by virtue of an astronomically low price. Some believe that Starship is too big to ever capture the whole market. These two camps will not come together before Starships has been flying for years. The reality is that this is a question of economics, and that no one actually confidently understands how economies work (not even economists), so neither side will be able to actually prove it's right until Starship is operational.

Relativity clearly believe that the "smaller rockets will still have a place in the market" camp is correct, and that is really the only part of this discussion that is relevant to this thread.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 06:33 am by JEF_300 »
Wait, ∆V? This site will accept the ∆ symbol? How many times have I written out the word "delta" for no reason?

Online trimeta

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #62 on: 06/09/2021 06:26 am »
If Starship gets anywhere near a $10m launch cost (never-mind Elonís ambitious $3m target), then the market has been so disrupted that there is no incentive or real value in designing a smaller reusable rocket that costs say $5m per launch. Even if you launch it 100 times a year, thatís a mere $500m in launch revenue. Not worth the investment cost, quite frankly.

People need to forget about the excessive noise, spectacle and sheer magnitude of a Starship launch, and look at it purely in terms of costs on a spreadsheet.

Itís a $10m/launch vehicle. Basically the equivalent to an Electron launch, from a cost perspective. Thatís the only metric that matters.

Is it worth designing a $5m launch vehicle to try and soak up launches below that value? If so, what would be the likely return on that investment. Thatís the question that really matters.

As you've said before, the real money is in payloads. Building a launch business is a means to the end of doing something more profitable in space. For Rocket Lab (and Astra), this goal is "developing a plug-and-play satellite bus for prospective smallsat customers, including on-orbit management and scaling up to a full constellation." Having control of their own launcher gives them flexibility in putting those satellites into orbit, rather than "go through SpaceX." They're banking on that ultimately being worth the cost of vehicle development.

Relativity Space is also working on in-space payloads: their 3D printers themselves. They want every Muskville and Elontown on Mars to have a Relativity Space autofactory churning out necessary goods without needing specialized tooling (and manufacturing expertise) for everything. Building rockets now is just a way to demonstrate this capability, as well as maybe a play for buy-out from SpaceX (by demonstrating capabilities which would be useful in future SpaceX rockets). And since they can get over a billion of capital investment to build a rocket, they might as well try: even if they don't recoup all the costs from launch services alone, the tech they're developing now could make them the de facto choice for in-space manufacturing. And they can make some money on the side, launching rockets (as long as they're not losing money per-rocket).

Of course, all that assumes that any US-based company not named SpaceX will put any equipment of any sort, be it launcher or payload, above the KŠrmŠn line for the purposes of making money 15 years from now. My impression is that you strongly disagree with this assumption. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #63 on: 06/09/2021 07:20 am »

Of course, all that assumes that any US-based company not named SpaceX will put any equipment of any sort, be it launcher or payload, above the KŠrmŠn line for the purposes of making money 15 years from now. My impression is that you strongly disagree with this assumption. If I'm wrong, please let me know.

Who am I to make predictions about the general launch market 15 years from now? I can only comment on the current business case for an individual launch company (in this case, Relativity) as I see it compared to the market leader.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 07:23 am by M.E.T. »

Offline M.E.T.

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #64 on: 06/09/2021 09:19 am »
How do repairs to 3D printed rockets work? Is it easier or more difficult than traditional manufacturing? Iím thinking about the comparative complexity of refurbishment between flights.

Offline rakaydos

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #65 on: 06/09/2021 11:04 am »
How do repairs to 3D printed rockets work? Is it easier or more difficult than traditional manufacturing? Iím thinking about the comparative complexity of refurbishment between flights.
The holy grail would be "melt the old one down for materials to build a new one with the latest upgrades."

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #66 on: 06/09/2021 11:24 am »
Yes, I know how this "lack of demand" argument goes (ironically it's the same argument against Tesla in early days). It's a nice theory 3 months ago, but today the HLS award has totally obliterated this argument, which is the point of my previous comment: Your hypothesis needs to change based on new evidence from reality. Reality is NASA likes Starship very much, so much so that they're willing to single source it, against the wishes of old space contractors and their pet senators. The way I see it, as long as SpaceX doesn't mess it up themselves, Starship is well on its way to become the dominate architecture for NASA BLEO exploration, that alone should be able to carry the program financially, just like how CRS carried Falcon 9 in early days.

And this reminds me another pet peeve of mine: This argument acts as if SpaceX is only a launch provider, that hasn't been true since the early days when they got COTS and CRS, it's certainly not true today, and it's especially not true for Starship since it's a combined launch vehicle/spacecraft/lander (and maybe more). People trying to look at Starship from a LV lens is missing the big picture, this should be obvious given the biggest contract Starship has right now is not for launch but for landing, but I guess sometimes people has trouble seeing the forest from the trees so to speak (and don't even get me started with the whole self inconsistencies of claiming "NASA shouldn't give all the money to Starship" then at the same time claiming "Starship can't compete because it's too big"...)

Starship isn't going away, and if all it does is let SpaceX fly and maintain Starlink, that alone would be worth the development cost: I seem to remember someone saying just three comments back that launch is just "a revenue source required in the bridging period between now and when Starlink hits its stride." Starship could lose all but the occasional BLEO commercial/government mission to lower-cost rockets, and SpaceX wouldn't care or be harmed.

However, "Starship could become the Artemis vehicle of choice" isn't the same as "Starship will be the only launch vehicle launched from US soil, period." Between Artemis, Starlink, and Mars, I can maybe see 30-40 launches a year which actually need Starship's capabilities. Which is great, that would be considered a successful rocket. But it could do that while still having the "disadvantage" against Neutron and Terran R when it comes to smaller payloads. This is by no means fatal to Starship, but it shows one way in which Starship would be more competitive with Neutron and Terran R if it were smaller.

You can argue that getting the entirety of the super-heavy lift market is better than getting a fraction of the merely medium or heavy lift market. Personally, I doubt the super-heavy lift market is big enough for that to actually be true. But that's besides the point: the goal of Starship wasn't "how do we design a vehicle to make as much money as possible from the launch market?" Starship's purpose is "help SpaceX achieve its goals and make a decent amount of money (not necessarily the maximal amount of money) along the way." And I have every confidence that it will achieve this, with "being a super-heavy lift vehicle" having contributed to the first part of the purpose (even if it left some money on the table from the launch market).

If Starship gets anywhere near a $10m launch cost (never-mind Elonís ambitious $3m target), then the market has been so disrupted that there is no incentive or real value in designing a smaller reusable rocket that costs say $5m per launch. Even if you launch it 100 times a year, thatís a mere $500m in launch revenue. Not worth the investment cost, quite frankly.

People need to forget about the excessive noise, spectacle and sheer magnitude of a Starship launch, and look at it purely in terms of costs on a spreadsheet.

Itís a $10m/launch vehicle. Basically the equivalent to an Electron launch, from a cost perspective. Thatís the only metric that matters.

Is it worth designing a $5m launch vehicle to try and soak up launches below that value? If so, what would be the likely return on that investment. Thatís the question that really matters.
I doubt Starship will be launching Starlinks competing LEO constellations. SpaceX won't be offering cheap launches to competition and competition won't want to be relying on SpaceX for their launches.

That leaves RL, Relativity, Blue and ULA fighting over Starlinks competitor's launches and looks like there are plenty to go around.


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Offline inventodoc

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #67 on: 06/09/2021 11:36 am »
My BS detector is going off like a Tornado Alarm.   This is a venture capital ego trip with, as far as I can tell, a lack of engineering gravitas & tech/talent base to build off of.   It has all the popular buzzwords for the LA money set "3D Printed", "Design by Nature", etc that particularly set my BS senses tingling. 

I see a SpaceX knock off w/o any evidence of their own substantive breakthroughs that will provide an advantage. They are starting w/ nothing but a pretty animation, cocktail parties and IPO rounds. This is compounded by ego-driven but scientifically vacuous personalities like Mark Cuban. I'd take it more seriously if they had started w/ something (an engine, a tech demonstrator, some new technology that they have like reaction engines...)

Anything could happen, but I'm betting this one is going to blow up within 2 years.  Feels like Cerberus trying to run Chrysler.

Offline TrevorMonty

Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #68 on: 06/09/2021 11:50 am »
I'd be suspect to but $650m buy lots of development. Plus they aren't starting totally from scratch,  development work on Terrab 1 has to account for something.



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Offline Redclaws

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #69 on: 06/09/2021 12:38 pm »
My BS detector is going off like a Tornado Alarm.   This is a venture capital ego trip with, as far as I can tell, a lack of engineering gravitas & tech/talent base to build off of.   It has all the popular buzzwords for the LA money set "3D Printed", "Design by Nature", etc that particularly set my BS senses tingling. 

I see a SpaceX knock off w/o any evidence of their own substantive breakthroughs that will provide an advantage. They are starting w/ nothing but a pretty animation, cocktail parties and IPO rounds. This is compounded by ego-driven but scientifically vacuous personalities like Mark Cuban. I'd take it more seriously if they had started w/ something (an engine, a tech demonstrator, some new technology that they have like reaction engines...)

Anything could happen, but I'm betting this one is going to blow up within 2 years.  Feels like Cerberus trying to run Chrysler.

I have to say, I couldnít agree more, but my impression from the space journalist coverage is they think at least the current smaller rocket is credible.  Which causes me to hesitate a bit.

Offline RoadWithoutEnd

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #70 on: 06/09/2021 12:44 pm »
The flaw in their reasoning may be in underestimating the number of prototypes they will have to build and test to arrive at a minimum viable product, which could easily make the costs of 3D printing prohibitive in development.  Even if in theory the cost of an operational reusable fleet would amortize quickly, that is only hypothetical if they can't get to the operational technology.

It's worth noting that they're trying to simultaneously:

* Scale the industrial capabilities of 3D printing beyond current states of the art, and...

* Create a fully-reusable orbital rocket, which even SpaceX has not yet done, on the scale of Falcon 9, which SpaceX gave up trying to do and couldn't find sufficient economic justifications to keep pursuing.

An advantage Relativity has is they can potentially pivot production even faster than SpaceX. Launch the first Terran R, find out that you could really do with adding half a metre to the diameter of the first stage and shortening it a bit, moving the strakes a few degrees around the hull, routing some extra RCS plumbing to the top for a faster flip, the interstage was overbuilt for the loads experienced and can lose 50kg, etc? Next one out of the printer can do that, no retooling required.

Yes, but Terran R is years away: They're starting with the Terran 1 expendable.  They will need many iterations to reach a minimum build of Terran R, since it's not merely a scaling like Falcon 1 to Falcon 9.  And as noted, 3D printed expendables would be more expensive than other production methods.

In other words, the advantages you note don't even start to be relevant until they've already gotten to some measure of reuse to amortize the costs of versioning.  Up to that point, they'll be hemorrhaging cash compared to Rocket Lab and Astra.  Also, the more variants they need along the way will make any given variant riskier to customers, making them more reliant on investment despite a higher burn rate. 

So, I doubt the institutional investors are betting on the specific business model Relativity is advertising to the public.  More likely they see a broader ecosystem for the 3D printing tech, and would pivot either outside of rocketry or into narrower applications within it as a component supplier.

Terran R could happen, but Relativity hasn't said anything convincing about why it would.  Rapid iteration is a tool, but a tool is not a plan.  Unless the point is to market that tool, and not necessarily a specific application for it.
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Offline Steve G

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #71 on: 06/09/2021 12:50 pm »
I'm still wondering what Jeff Bezos was doing at Relativity in early March. Buying the company and having the Terran Rockets, and staff and technology, might be the way to go.

Offline su27k

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #72 on: 06/09/2021 12:53 pm »
I'm still wondering what Jeff Bezos was doing at Relativity in early March. Buying the company and having the Terran Rockets, and staff and technology, might be the way to go.

Buying Terran-R to launch Kuiper?

Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #73 on: 06/09/2021 01:39 pm »
They are either serious about this, or they are fluffing up their fully reusable design as an added incentive for someone to buy them. (Now we have 3d printed rockets AND a reusable LV design)

I just can't decide with Terran. When will they actually launch something?
Theyve been working on Terran R for a long time. Theyíre serious about it.


But Iím super skeptical about them 3D printing the tanks for it.
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Offline yg1968

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #74 on: 06/09/2021 01:46 pm »
Could the Terran R be used as a lunar lander?

The Ars Technica article speaks of delivering payloads to the Moon but not humans.

Quote from: Eric Berger
However, Ellis said it would be a mistake to compare the Terran R rocket to the Falcon 9. The vehicle should be thought of more like a miniature version of SpaceX's Starship rocket, he said, with an upper stage that could transfer payloads through space, to the Moon and perhaps even Mars. In terms of appearances, too, it resembles Starship more than the Falcon 9.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2021/06/relativity-has-a-bold-plan-to-take-on-spacex-and-investors-are-buying-it/

Well, what timeframe are you thinking about?

Ellis himself says initial launch - aimed at 2024, so in reality probably NET 2025 - will not be a fully reusable version. That will come later. Likely much later. And you need the reusable (landing capable) version if you want to use it as a Moon lander.

So by 2025? No. By 2030? Maybe. But what will the competition have available by then?

The timeframe of the LETS contract which means around 2026 for a demo mission. But like lunar Starship, a reusable lander doesn't require a heatshield since it isn't coming back to Earth.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 04:05 pm by yg1968 »

Offline Eer

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #75 on: 06/09/2021 02:09 pm »
I see the reusable space launch, particularly now the Earth (deep gravity hole) launch vehicle market developing along fairly predictable lines followed by shipping industry.

SH/SS kicked the thinking towards something akin to 18-wheelers: large payloads, general purpose, capable of long distances with sufficient propellant resupply.

Terran R seems to be more along the lines of a challenger to the traditional heavy-duty pickup truck, or lorry if you will - smaller payloads, more agile, potentially less expensive to build and operate.  So more of a Ford F350 or some such.  Slap a different box on the back, but use the multi-purpose frame, engine, transmission, etc.  Utility truck.

Will Neutron provide the F150 run about, or will there be need for such a thing?

It's interesting, I think, to see a real-time experiment in market supply/demand dynamics that also offers insight to differentiated capabilities (and thus, differentiated market segments).

Do lorries compete with 18-wheelers or light pickup trucks? Maybe for some overlap, but generally, no.  Each market segment serves a different class of customer with a different class of needs.

Now we'll see if we're far enough along the technology adoption curve that "build it, they will come" proves true.

Which came first: SS/SH or StarLink?
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Offline edzieba

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #76 on: 06/09/2021 02:38 pm »
But Iím super skeptical about them 3D printing the tanks for it.
There's no reason a 3D printed tank cannot stand up to the same pressures and loads as a regular tank (and Relativity demonstrated that capability years ago).

Will a 3D printed tank be more expensive than a bent-sheet-and-domes tank? Sure. That matters if their business was building tanks. But their business is building rockets.
So once you start needing to build a tank (a bunch of jigs and tooling, ordering sheet stock, contracting out dome gore pressing/stamping/forming, weld assembly, etc) and then 3D print the rest of the rocket structure, you have to consider whether the extra mass cost of the bolted or welded join and flanges and load distribution structure, the time costs of assembly, financial costs of a bunch of extra single-purpose manufacturing overhead, and the design costs of being constrained to cylindrical tanks and sunk costs of whatever diameter you built tooling for, are worth it over "just print the tank along with the rest of the rocket".
Even for desktop 3D printers, you quickly find that while some individual components are far better as external 'vitamins' than 3D printed (e.g. if you try and 3D print a pile of nuts and bolts you're just going to have a terrible time and produce awful hardware), it is almost always preferable to just integrate those bits into your print instead in order to avoid post-print finishing and assembly. Sometimes that means doing things weirdly like replacing ground-rod slideways with flexures, but the more you can do in one print step the faster and easier making something is.

Offline RedLineTrain

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #77 on: 06/09/2021 02:46 pm »
The central question on the Terran R (and the other 2024 partially or fully reusables) is what type of market launch tends to be.  It may be that reusable launch is a "winner takes most" affair, in which case the success of Relativity is mostly determined by the vitality of SpaceX.  There are lots of markets that fit in this category.

I don't find "we don't want a launch monopoly" very relevant. It's a platitude.
« Last Edit: 06/09/2021 02:57 pm by RedLineTrain »

Online trimeta

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #78 on: 06/09/2021 03:27 pm »
But Iím super skeptical about them 3D printing the tanks for it.
There's no reason a 3D printed tank cannot stand up to the same pressures and loads as a regular tank (and Relativity demonstrated that capability years ago).

Will a 3D printed tank be more expensive than a bent-sheet-and-domes tank? Sure. That matters if their business was building tanks. But their business is building rockets.
So once you start needing to build a tank (a bunch of jigs and tooling, ordering sheet stock, contracting out dome gore pressing/stamping/forming, weld assembly, etc) and then 3D print the rest of the rocket structure, you have to consider whether the extra mass cost of the bolted or welded join and flanges and load distribution structure, the time costs of assembly, financial costs of a bunch of extra single-purpose manufacturing overhead, and the design costs of being constrained to cylindrical tanks and sunk costs of whatever diameter you built tooling for, are worth it over "just print the tank along with the rest of the rocket".
Even for desktop 3D printers, you quickly find that while some individual components are far better as external 'vitamins' than 3D printed (e.g. if you try and 3D print a pile of nuts and bolts you're just going to have a terrible time and produce awful hardware), it is almost always preferable to just integrate those bits into your print instead in order to avoid post-print finishing and assembly. Sometimes that means doing things weirdly like replacing ground-rod slideways with flexures, but the more you can do in one print step the faster and easier making something is.

This is true, but in fairness it seems like Relativity actually uses two different classes of 3D printers: smaller, more traditional laser sintering machines for engines and other precision parts, and their large Stargate printers for bulk structures. Arguably, they could have stuck with only the first set, and used fixed tooling for the latter: that would have obviated the need for Stargate entirely, rather than "we have these 3D printers, might as well use them for more stuff."

Of course, it's pretty clear that the Stargate printer technology is their whole Unique Selling Point (and likely, they eventually plan to productize the Stargates directly), so that wasn't an option for them. But they're not 3D printing tanks because "we already had the 3D printers for tanks in use for other parts of the build anyway."

Offline rakaydos

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Re: Relativity Space - Terran R
« Reply #79 on: 06/09/2021 03:42 pm »
But Iím super skeptical about them 3D printing the tanks for it.
There's no reason a 3D printed tank cannot stand up to the same pressures and loads as a regular tank (and Relativity demonstrated that capability years ago).

Will a 3D printed tank be more expensive than a bent-sheet-and-domes tank? Sure. That matters if their business was building tanks. But their business is building rockets.
So once you start needing to build a tank (a bunch of jigs and tooling, ordering sheet stock, contracting out dome gore pressing/stamping/forming, weld assembly, etc) and then 3D print the rest of the rocket structure, you have to consider whether the extra mass cost of the bolted or welded join and flanges and load distribution structure, the time costs of assembly, financial costs of a bunch of extra single-purpose manufacturing overhead, and the design costs of being constrained to cylindrical tanks and sunk costs of whatever diameter you built tooling for, are worth it over "just print the tank along with the rest of the rocket".
Even for desktop 3D printers, you quickly find that while some individual components are far better as external 'vitamins' than 3D printed (e.g. if you try and 3D print a pile of nuts and bolts you're just going to have a terrible time and produce awful hardware), it is almost always preferable to just integrate those bits into your print instead in order to avoid post-print finishing and assembly. Sometimes that means doing things weirdly like replacing ground-rod slideways with flexures, but the more you can do in one print step the faster and easier making something is.

This is true, but in fairness it seems like Relativity actually uses two different classes of 3D printers: smaller, more traditional laser sintering machines for engines and other precision parts, and their large Stargate printers for bulk structures. Arguably, they could have stuck with only the first set, and used fixed tooling for the latter: that would have obviated the need for Stargate entirely, rather than "we have these 3D printers, might as well use them for more stuff."

Of course, it's pretty clear that the Stargate printer technology is their whole Unique Selling Point (and likely, they eventually plan to productize the Stargates directly), so that wasn't an option for them. But they're not 3D printing tanks because "we already had the 3D printers for tanks in use for other parts of the build anyway."
I said this in the main relativity thread, but it bears repeating- based on their mission statements, Relativity isnt actually planning to compete with SpaceX in bringing cargo to mars. More likely, they will pay SpaceX to take some of their printers to mars, along with raw material (and later, means to refine said raw matrials locally), and be top dog in the MARTIAN manufacturing economy.

 

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