Tim Ellis is co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space, the first space-tech company to 3D print an entire rocket. Disrupting over 60 years of aerospace, Relativity is leading the way for software-defined manufacturing by fusing 3D printing, machine learning, & autonomous robotics. Under Tim’s leadership, Relativity is creating the factory of the future and building a rocket in days instead of years.View the profile
Athena Brensberger advocates for space exploration through her platform Astroathens. People can find DIY space demos, rocket launch coverage, and going behind the scenes at events around the world! She’s worked with Seeker, Futurism, ArianeGroup, and Dexter as a correspondent on all things astronomy and rocket science. With a background in astrophysics and fashion, Athena’s mission is to show that space is within all of us, no matter what industry you are in. Her research includes work on Proto-planetary disks and low mass stars. After giving her first talk on stage, she fell in love with presenting science rather than conducting it.View the profile
About the talk
Society sees space as futuristic. However, aerospace manufacturing hasn’t evolved in 60 years - large factories, fixed tooling, complex supply chains, and extensive manual labor continues to hold the industry back. However, over the past five years, Relativity Space has built an unrivaled team revolutionizing how rockets are built and flown by fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics.
Join Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity, and Athena Brensberger, space evangelist and influencer @Astroathens, for a featured session at SXSW. The two will discuss the origin story of Relativity, how and why the Relativity team continues to build towards the uncharted future, and the company’s role in expanding the possibilities for humanity's multiplanetary future.
Hello everyone. My name is Athena brensberger, a science Communicator focused and Aerospace and astrophysics. And today, I have with me, the CEO, and co-founder of Relativity, space. Tim Ellis YouTube, how you doing today? Hey, get Athena. How are you doing? I'm doing it's still great. Yeah. So so excited to be here at South by Southwest with you. I would love for you to tell me a little bit about what relativity is. Yeah, of course. It's a relatively is a company I founded five years ago, or 3D printing entire
Rockets us. We actually build the world's largest metal 3D, printer world's first 3D printing Factory for Aerospace. All the way up to Building & Design in Ireland pocket, launch Vehicles, we have lunch Heights at Cape Canaveral Florida. Vandenberg Air Force Base here in California and then the national presence in the US with a long-term vision of one day, building Humanities infrastructure on Mars. I'm so, I really believe this technology is inevitable to be on Mars and then even before we get there, we're really building the factory. The future for Aerospace today. On Earth, just
starting with rockets. That sounds so incredible. Honestly I would have never thought of 3D printing of full Rockets, go to space, really sounds like as of 2020 was a huge year for relativity, copy through a little bit of some of the Milestones, you guys at she's really set you up for the goals for the upcoming year. Yes, course, the stone sword and I can't believe it's three years ago. We were only a 14-person company. Now, as of this last year, we have three hundred people on the next full time at and contractors, but you can my crazy. We've raised
almost seven hundred million dollars to actually build this future. And last year was a really big year. So we started actually building the first time seeing it in our Factory that we're actually going to fly to or a bit at the end of this year. So not only is flying the studio printed rocket. Going to be a huge milestone for the biggest 3D printed objects. Really ever flown. In Aerospace, is the super prominent example of how 3D printing will actually be building the future. And so we got her a factory here in Long Beach. A hundred twenty
thousand square feet. Supposed to be in testing rocket engines out at NASA's stennis Space Center on C. Have about a third of all of NASA's Center. SNS under contract for the next 20 years. So that's where we do all of our bucket engine, and in stage testing, but yeah, we were building these huge to the printers that they can actually pick up to 2 north of 30, ft tall, and 1520 ft wide to actually develop this to ourselves. And it, and it looks a lot like machines from Westworld as he's really big robotic arms. It it's really a
stock though, for Aerospace. And people quite there yet, not just a cool technology. This is actually Evolution. That's going to change much like going from gas internal combustion engines to electric cars and that whole new texts. I'm or going from one premise servers to class a text back during some traditional manufacturing, that really hasn't changed for the last sixty years in Aerospace. Let me know how every single talk to you walked into today in Aerospace. It looks really impressive. But it's big stolen. A super expensive building products with hundreds of
thousands to millions of individual Parts. One at a time by hand automation really hasn't kept in the Aerospace. If I really see 3D printing a whole product from the top down perspective and building this new text back I'm which is what relativity is leading that. Really is the future and I'm weak. We know. It must have been trusted to innovate more quickly. I'm in really see the future happen faster on Earth, but certainly it took to build on Mars. Oh, I love that. You mentioned Westworld because I mean it sounds like it really would be like science fiction, but this is
become so much of really what our immediate future is going to be looking at which is 3D printing in order to achieve some of the biggest goals that we look for the future and Ed speaking of future, a big focus of South by Southwest this year is on the Uncharted future and I sort of feel like relativity just fits right in there. With some of the biggest Concepts that originally were science, fiction, that are now becoming a reality show in what other ways is relativity. Innovating to such a paved the way for the future. Yeah. Well I really think it gets down to what
your opinion is. I mean to me it's actually just an automation technology. It's it's really a way that you can transform at 3 to add file, pre-designed. Your pure products, the weather is it that relativity's building or much like Tesla other products that will build on top of it. You know, it takes this CAD file and turns it into a real life. Products were able to actually build rockets that have a thousand Total Parts. When a traditional rocket has over a hundred thousand into the part-time.
Consolidation means we also have less purchasing less supply chain. We only have four round metal balls for the entire Rockets. This Legend, very simple. The number of prostitutes, we have to be an expert in our Factory very minimal so this is getting more attitude. As you mentioned, is it Every movie. You're so I'm actually starting my trim a hardcore aerospace engineer, but went to USC thinking, I was going to graduate and hopefully be a screenwriter went. When I graduated a switch for a Space Engineering at orientation, but I think what we're doing it relativity is a
future a reality. And we've actually recruited a team that has the ability to do it. I mean, it's a lot of the pioneers of the private and commercial space industry over the last two decades that we brought onto the team, Dave launched and landed and flown and socks at the International Space Station more Rockets than anyone in history has really ever done. But now, they're 13. 3D printing. Is this next wave of innovation? Is no one. Yet is tackling. The fundamental Manufacturing Technologies. And in 3D printing is that
automation Holy Grail. Al actually make this happen. Well, speaking of essentially automation also, looking to the future, I think a big mission of Relativity and vision has been to develop an interplanetary Society. So, can you talk to me a little bit about why you made that that your mission and how you plan to achieve that one day? Of course so it's actually starting my career working at Jeff Bezos, private space, company, blue origin. I'm so is Bruster's. A very small company did a few internships and then full-time Thrifty years I was working on designing and
developing rocket engines and did the first ever metal 3D printing, a blue origin and ended up bringing the metal 3D printing program and house. That's how I got into a fight. I was five years ago and at the time I was super inspired seeing Rocketts Landing. Going to the International Space Station on the way. There were so many cool things happening in the private space industry in 13 years. Since being founded SpaceX was the only company that was at the school of making Humanity. Multiplanetary, I strongly believe there, need to be dozens, hundreds
of companies doing us. All the animations of buckets taking off with people, in landing on Mars were super inspiring, but then they would land. And in right when the people I got it, The black. This is the world that I started relativity and five years ago. And even though relativity's founding mission is that we want to build Humanity's industrial base on Mars to really believe 3D Pens, game is going to build the factory of the future. That one day, we'll build all of Humanity's industrial base on Mars, everything from habitats actually building other products on Mars. And then one day is
involved in the first rocket ice on Mars to to let us go off and do the next. The next adventure that there had to be a company that was doing this. If you're actually launched a factory, Mars has to be very lightweight. A small footprint, it has to use very limited human labor and I'm in a lot of automation cuz it's not going to be that many astronauts are explorers the very first part of the wide range of objects that they're going to need to all of those. Northstar principles really defines this intelligent 3D printing. I thought that not relativity is building
until I know that this is inevitable and it must happen for that future to exist. And then, as far as why that future sit exist, like why should we even be going tomorrow? Is the first thing a year, like 2020 when it's clear. There are so many Earthbound challenges that exist. And I think, for me, really comes down to what is actually the vision of humanity. As a species, is a really big question, but I think for me, it's pretty existential, like, what is all this living and dying about and why do we create our? It's like, why, why are we trying to improve? What is humanity actually do in
an end? What are we all about? As a as a species, and I just firmly believe that going to Mars and becoming multiplanetary. Really is a big part of expanding what it means, to be human being and maximizing our potential. I believe, if we were sitting there here today, having this conversation in a million people were actually living on Mars. On a day-to-day basis that everyone's life here on Earth would be fundamentally different. I think, I mean, a million people living somewhere else, just the new emotions it opens up and do arts the new creative. I mean we're going to have that the
Amelie of long-distance relationships with someone on Mars and someone on Earth and it's going to be real. And these are going to be real hump last challenging but human emotions that we're going to have as a civilization. And I just think it's the greatest Adventure in really maximizes what it means to be human. Go against very challenging problems and somehow come out the other side often successful and we have that grit and we have that perseverance. I just said why not? Like I think it's really important that we do go for it if they got this One Life to Live and I think it's
important that we have invested and really push the boundaries. Yes, I I completely agree with you on that and I love how many times you mention art? I almost feel like artists are really some of the biggest disruptors of the world. I mean they are creating things that just really Inspire the generations and you know South by Southwest is really on this basis of an inter mixing between creativity and technology. And I feel like relativity really plays at role of a 3D printing in itself is essentially art. So what are your views about how creative, an artist made play a
role in the future of space exploration? Yeah, so I think I mean artist near and dear to my heart and in many ways. So I'm actually married to an artist that is launching her art on satellites and into space, and sit still playing at Cinemax world. I mean, I myself was thinking, I was going to be a screenwriter and go in the film before I became a hardcore aerospace engineers. So that's why hardcore engineer but I do feel like I'm an artist at heart and I think it comes to this idea that you know it's really characterized the way I see Society building which
is a Venn diagram of science plus R equals wonder. I think it's just really treats the Splendor of space. When you have creativity you have new thoughts and vessel with this idea of human emotion and like, why are we all here and a big accidental questions. And what's amazing been about the engineering is actually making that happen in real. It's a feedback loop and I can give one example. I actually a big music fan went two times, I think well over 300 live concert. Send you a time to six chairs with
152 x. How to get snacks are visuals, are launching a space shuttle in, on the back of residuals, know his Secrets, finals in College of Engineering homework. She has that this is the way I celebrated. Like, I actually do it and then I was able to launch a photo of me at that concert into space when I was done and I gave it to a snack Derek. And then we actually license a song here at relativity to using one of our videos, but then to use some of the video clips in his life visual. So I love this idea has an interplay between us, inspiring
Engineers to really be ambitious and go for Big Dreams and then being able to give that back to artist then make better are to keep Find the Next Generation. Wow, that is such an incredible story. I am so blown away by that, I like that. My first thought of the mix between RN and science was on Pink. Floyd hella concert at a massive pot of Terror and I was just totally Blown Away by that. I kind of like to get you to sort of, like, imagine what that first mission to Mars is going to be like, when artist start to see. What, how do you feel like people
living on, Mars, are going to really be inspired by the house. I'm going to spark artist and the second question is, can you imagine what the first concert of you've got the 300 concert is going to be like Yeah, I kind of reminds me of my childhood like as you know I'm busy call like that income people are underestimated. Just how much that will start to change society as we get artists in the space and people I can actually communicate and make it more relevant to today. Today people that have friends that are astronauts and I'm sure you do
too and they're doing great work. And I think the people that have gone to space know, it's been a lot of science Mission, lots of former Air Force pilots and two tracks that we currently have four people going to stay the more that we actually make it relevant to Everyday People on people that, you know, really, just want to know what is it actually feel like. And and why is it actually important to my day-to-day life? And for me, that at Just come down to actually thinking about the future of human civilization and in what are we
all doing? And I also think it's a Big, Lots form. For frankly, it's how we operate at relativity that especially through 2020. I think it's a big platform of going to Mars is also about taking the best of humanity there. So we have a responsibility and an opportunity and a very visible platform comment on social issues and make sure that we are actually improving systemic racism and breaking barriers down as we go to Mars in another planet. And really bring the best of humanity there and actually be thought leaders and what that looks like.
I completely agree with you on that. Like, I always refer to space exploration. A sort of this umbrella that really unify so much of just Humanity. You know? We all sort of fit under that umbrella of a space travel and we do venture out into the cosmos that is done where all has it has like every single nation. And yeah, I think that's something really really aspirational about what you just said right now. On Mars, we kind of have like a robotic family out there for us right now, which I think is kind of fascinating talking about what you were saying. We're essentially it's about
getting there a setting up base camp, right? Like sorry, sister to 3D print things while you're at once you're actually on Mars like a bit into sort of the younger Generations right now because what you're doing is really creating the ripple effect throughout the younger Generations. Actually work with students, I teaching astronomy class and he students are learning how to 3D print a code. Age 8 and 9 years old and about what you're doing is just really, so motivating for them. So how do you think the Next Generation and that the kids up today are
going to end up being some of the entrepreneurs of tomorrow and how they're going to be following your footsteps? How do you think they're really going to Aid and the greater good of humankind really? Yeah, of course. That's amazing to hear that his people are already getting access to the these Technologies. I mean, I think, of course, that's going to accelerate to learn in and it's really about just making sure that the next generation is inspired to Taco B's problems. I think it is a worthwhile challenge because without more people doing it. If not I
can see, this is going to happen. I am quite convinced, it needs to happen for the future to maximizing our potential to exist. I think if we're forever confined to Earth, there will be a limited set of things that people can experience. And I'd certainly think we're at an inflection point. If we choose to do this as a society, we have more smart people coming into this industry and in actually making it happen, I really believe we can be on Mars and in a very big way in our lifetime, we all So I'm worried actually
like for me to tell us about an asteroid destroy the planet Earth than worrying about that happens to assure, it could exist. But the odds are very low. I think for me it's more about what are the new emotions and experiences. And then the danger is what if a I actually get so smart that you when you really think about the things that are hard about space travel back to your flying people who are squishy and we need water food, shelter are at and boredom, frankly are the things that actually make it difficult. So once you can actually send increasingly sophisticated robots
and have Steven near sentients are like, extremely intelligent AI. It actually becomes easier just to be in the data in a few minutes over tomorrow, instead of constantly, having to send people and then certainly building spaceships and and Rockets actually launch Where is easier than people to don't, actually more worried about the rates of Robotics and AI progress, making it easier for people to not be the ones to go and do it. And I think for me, it is interesting, having people go. And so do
you have for the Next Generation? I think that's why now. I think that's why we have to do this now because we're doing inflection points. That if we don't worry Robotics and AI will actually overcome our ability to have people in masks be the ones to do it. Yeah, we do you need a lot more companies and socks. That 18 years later relativity still only number to nor 5 years old. I feel a deep sense of responsibility for that and I also think that's for Motivation by making us, an absolutely massive commercial success,
as a business is bad, will get more and more resources to Towards making a 3D printing platform more and more advanced start expanding into, you know, not just Rockets but other products that really need that increasing rate of innovation. And I haven't been able to benefit from it, over the last sixty years, due to the limitations of the current traditional Manufacturing stock. And that's really how I see this playing. Yeah. Well I am so so excited to sort of see this as first launched at you had mentioned which I believe you said it's going to be happening
this year right answers that they can actually build the whole rocket fuselage in less than 30 days. So that part is not traditionally would take over a year. And so do ya from the year to 30 days and then each iteration inversion we make will be a little bit better every time I'm in. Actually not only that it is actually we want to make it better each pocket. We make that's a little bit lighter weight, we actually can then print faster and then it's cheaper to build actually making it
higher performance and improved will actually get cheaper and faster and I actually see. Why are they doing this? A little bit smarter than design algorithms. Get more Iraq. Actually start to look more like organic bone marrow. We're very highly optimized structures that looked extremely organic, and strange and algorithmically generated but they're actually just using the principles of nature to directly design at what we're building them, then they can just do it, digitally controlled. I'm so many ways. We're
building the factory that will just interface with these smart design, auger them, especially over the next decade. That is so extraordinary. Just the imagination of sort of a rocket kind of resembling, something is organic bone marrow. Never actually thought that before, right now a lot of rockets are made of ice big honky metal stainless steel, let's start making space, more down-to-earth, you no more human-like, especially with everything you were, mentioning about how the biggest thing is around. The question of why we're here, where
we're going and where we came from the start of an important role is making it more relatable to vanity. I mean, I think being relatable is super important that we're here in. Los Angeles is one of the greatest creative Capital centers in the world. I think, turning in turning our brand loose and claimed to have more of these innovators play with us. I think there's a lot of people, I would love to tell stories about on the way on Mars. You know, where or some other crime story who is martian, civilization and and
but it's not Syfy, it's actually just the background. It's a totally normal future that that we see and I think telling me stories really plugging and with more influence there's more people that can actually relate love. To have you two been fun to come by and maybe there's a lipstick color that looks like I robots. And you know I think just It's really important because it's actually not an accessible at all. I think this is happening and it's going to happen in our lifetime and it's good for people to feel. They can be a part of it. Yeah, well well, that is so incredible. I have definitely
extremely inspired. I'm looking forward to this launched this year. I can also play some such a big dick year. So Tim take you so much for taking the time to chat with us. And everybody here at South by Southwest. We're looking forward to that lunch. Thank you so much. It's going to be awesome. Thank you very much. Also, I'll be there. Hopefully, thank you. Bye.
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