The creation of rockets does not need humans anymore

The sound of grunts echoed across the parking lot creates a startling comparison for a factory where robots work around the clock to develop a rocket with almost no human labor.

“That’s the stunt gym for Keanu Reeves,” says Tim Ellis, chief executive, and co-founder of Relativity Space, a company that aims to merge 3D printing with artificial intelligence to do what Henry Ford did for the vehicle. As we walk among the robots occupying the factory of Relativity, he points out the just completed upper rocket stage of the venture, which will soon be shipped for its first tests to Mississippi.

None of those A-listers has paid a visit to Relativity’s rocket plant, but the existence of these unexpected neighbors seems to underline the company’s main point of discussion: it can produce rockets anywhere. Nevertheless, his neighbors will be even more alien than Snoop Dogg in a perfect universe. Relativity is not just about building rockets but about building them on Mars. What exactly is that? The answer, says Ellis, is robots—lots of them.

Roll up the loading bay doors at the Los Angeles headquarters of Relativity, and you will discover four of the world’s largest 3D metal printers, churning out rocket parts day and night. The company’s new patented printer model, called Stargate, is 30 feet tall and has two huge robotic arms protruding from the device like tentacles.

The Stargate printers will produce about 95%, by mass, of the first rocket of Relativity, called Terran-1. Electronics, wires, and a handful of moving parts and rubber gaskets are the only pieces that won’t be printed.