Private launch provider Relatively Space has signed an agreement with NASA to lease the 22,000-square-meter Building 9101 at the Stennis Space Center. The company plans to utilise the facility to create the first autonomous rocket factory.
Relatively Space was founded in 2015 with the goal of utilising 3D printing technology as part of rocket manufacturing. With this goal in mind, the company created Stargate, the world’s largest metal 3D printer with which it plans to use to begin producing rocket components with an eye on eventually producing an entire launch vehicle, the Terran 1.
Currently, Stargate is housed at the company’s discrete headquarters in Inglewood, California. However, the printer along with additional larger printers currently in the works will be housed in the new Stennis facility in the future. Relatively Space reportedly plans to invest $59 million into retrofitted the facility as the company’s permanent manufacturing hub. Once complete, much of the manufacturing process will be automated with the only intervention required for final assembly and testing.
“We are investing not just a new rocket, but an entirely new way of production, with our large, mass scale, 3D printing factory,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder and chief executive. “The exact same factory we built for the rockets is already applicable to other things. It’s highly automated (due to 3D printing), which reduces part counts, and simplifies the supply chain.”
According to co-founder and chief technology officer Jordan Noone, the nine-year lease of Building 9101, which includes options for extensions came at a “very low cost.” Additionally, the state of Mississippi has offered the company an incentive package for bringing high-paying technology jobs to the region.