3D printing continues to experience significant expansion. Spacefaring startups Relativity Space and Rocket Lab, each specializing in 3D printed rockets, are just two up and coming competitors to SpaceX, boasting multi-billion dollar valuations.
Markforged, a metal 3D printing firm, is also expanding additive manufacturing’s impact on space travel by supplying components for robots that may someday be at the forefront of subterranean exploration on other planets. This comes as HP is amplifying their own utilization of industrial 3D printing.
Rocket Lab and Markforged are among the latest names reported to go public this year via SPAC mergers
Related ETF: The 3D Printing ETF (PRNT)
Fresh off of a $500 million round of new fundraising in the final quarter of 2020, 3D-printing rocket builder Relativity Space is working on Terran R, a fully reusable launch vehicle that would be near the capabilities of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. Just like Terran 1, Relativity will build Terran R with more than 90% of the parts through additive manufacturing – utilizing the world’s largest 3D printers.
Per CNBC, Terran R will be capable of lifting nearly 20x the payload their previous rocket project, Terran 1 could launch into low Earth orbit. That would put Relativity’s targeted payload near 20,000 kilograms, very close to the 22,800 kilograms that SpaceX says its Falcon 9 rockets can launch.
As MRP previously noted, the developer of a metal composite 3D printing technology, as well as a supplier to SpaceX, Velo3D raised $28 million in funding last year. Founder and CEO Benny Buller told TechCrunch back in April 2020: “SpaceX has started using us for a specific component that they had very significant issues manufacturing that using existing techniques… SpaceX has been using 3D printing for production of engines… As they are designing the next generation engines from the starship… there were some components that they could not produce [and] over time they shifted more and more and more components to our system.”
Per Pitchbook, Relativity’s valuation stands at $2.3 billion. Though that is just a fraction of SpaceX’s $44 billion valuation, Relativity is just one competitor in the expanding private space industry, where 3D printing has seen increasing adoption due to critical cost-cutting advantages.
After raising $24 million in December, Scottish microlauncher Orbex announced last month that it has commissioned AMCM to build the largest 3D printer in Europe. SpaceNews reports that Orbex plans to eventually manufacture more than 35 rocket engines per year. The startup is currently developing Prime, a two-stage launch vehicle powered by six first-stage and one second-stage biopropane engines. The maiden flight of the vehicle is slated for 2022.
Perhaps the most successful rocket startup, though, is the one finalizing a deal to finally offer shares to the public.
MRP has previously highlighted the success of Rocket Lab, another industry leader in 3D printed rockets whose backers have included defense giant Lockheed Martin Corp. By May 2019, the company had already put 25 satellites in orbit. To date, company has now launched 97 satellites.
The company has since expanded their services to include custom satellite construction that can be tailored to anyone’s low Earth orbit business needs. Such satellites are designed to launch to orbit on Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, creating a streamlined mission to space.
The 55-foot-tall Electron rocket one-ups Relativity’s Terran R, being 100% 3D-printed — the only rocket of its kind to be flying at the moment. Electron can’t send very heavy satellites into space (it is too lightweight), but the rise of small satellites has opened up an enormous market that Rocket Lab wants to capitalize on.
With Rocket Lab’s 16th launch on November 19, which included 30 small satellites, the company made headlines by successfully recovering an Electron rocket after it had sent its collection of payloads toward orbit. The good news for investors is that Rocket Lab is nearing an agreement to go public by merging with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC)…