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Qualifying Additively Manufactured Rocket Structures: Informing the Design and Manufacturing Process with Non-Destructive Evaluation

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  • access_time 10:50 - 11:15 AM PT
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Relativity Space has developed additive manufacturing (AM) technologies for the purpose of building launch vehicles, among other products of interest. Terran 1, the world’s first 3D Printed Rocket (85% by mass), realized several industry firsts, most notably the use of Wire-Arc Direct-Energy Deposition to manufacture the 8’ diameter x 100’ long fracture-critical primary structure. Terran 1 launched in March of 2023, successfully passing critical mission milestones including lift off, maximum aerodynamic pressure (Max Q), and stage separation. Although the mission ended when the Stage 2 engine failed to ignite, the achievements of Terran 1 mark a critical demonstration of the capabilities of additive manufacturing, implementation of agile methods into hardware development and production, and rapid build and qualification of additively manufactured components for service. Building on the success of Terran 1, we’re accelerating our focus on Terran R, our medium-to-heavy lift reusable rocket.

This talk will focus on a demonstration of the advantages and complexities of performing AM at scale; specifically targeting qualification processes for flight which historically rely on locking-in a manufacturing process. The iterative and flexible nature of AM processes merits a critical rethinking of qualification timelines, as the integrated and data-rich AM process is yet to be fully leveraged. Examples from Relativity’s Wire-Arc AM process will be used to highlight the importance of Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) as an in-process feedback loop that informs the design and manufacturing of AM components.