New Space and Tech

3D Printed Rocket Launched Using Innovative NASA Alloy

By Keith Cowing
Status Report
May 7, 2023
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3D Printed Rocket Launched Using Innovative NASA Alloy
Relativity Space Terran 1 rocket
Relativity Space

In March, the Relativity Space Terran 1 rocket lit up the night sky as it launched from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

This was the first launch of a test rocket made entirely from 3D-printed parts, measuring 100 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide.

A form of additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a key technology for enhancing capabilities and reducing cost. Terran 1 included nine additively manufactured engines made of an innovative copper alloy, which experienced temperatures approaching 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Created at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland under the agency’s Game Changing Development program, this family of copper-based alloys known as Glenn Research Copper, or GRCop, are designed for use in combustion chambers of high performance rocket engines.

A combination of copper, chromium, and niobium, GRCop is optimized for high strength, high thermal conductivity, high creep resistance – which allows more stress and strain in high temperature applications – and good low cycle fatigue -– which prevents material failures –above 900 degrees Farenheit. They tolerate temperatures up to 40% higher than traditional copper alloys, which leads to higher performance components and reusability.

This image shows the Terran 1’s rocket exhaust during launch in March 2023.

Image credit: Relativity Space Larger image

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.