HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - Hancock County is soon to be home to a 3D printing rocket factory. In just a few years, the rocket company Relativity says it plans to have its manufacturing operations up and running at Stennis Space Center. The company is now hiring to find the right men and women to make it all a reality.
As the future of aerospace continues to lift off in Hancock County, David Sykes and Jon Oliver say they are excited to be a part of it. Both men have returned home to Mississippi to work for Relativity Space, a company that builds and tests rockets.
The California-based company has signed a nine-year lease to take over Building 1901, which was once the home of the Army Ammo plant at Stennis Space Center.
“To be able to come back home to South Mississippi and be able to work on some revolutionary and game-changing ideas in the aerospace industry was pretty amazing," said Oliver.
Oliver spent some time in McGregor, Texas, working at Space X’s test facility and is now the lead Data and Control Systems Engineer for Relativity.
Sykes is the Operations Manager and served 21 years in the military before returning home.
“I’ve been all over the world," said Sykes. “So it was really nice and a really good transition from my previous background to being here as a rocket company."
“From a professional level, I get to work on some amazing technology and solve some extremely interesting problems," said Oliver. “But from a personal level, we’re doing this in my hometown area, and so it’s really great to see such innovation occurring here locally."
Right now, they're two of just under a dozen employees at Relativity's Stennis facility.
That number will soon grow to around 200 as the rocket company continues to expand testing facilities, and in the next five years, build its 3D printing rocket factory.
The company is currently looking to hire mechanical, software and electrical engineers, as well as technicians.
“We are looking for those engineers and technicians that are hard workers, think outside of the box and are looking to be in a new industry, expand our opportunities and redesign the way we think about aerospace," said Sykes.
Relativity’s growth brings a $59 million investment to Hancock County.
Prior to leasing this facility, the company was already contracted with Stennis for its engine testing program. Oliver says when the opportunity came to expand and lease the 220,000 square foot facility, it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up.
“We were able to basically have a really good headstart in building out a lot of physical infrastructure that we could continue to develop our test stands," said Oliver.
It’s an investment in innovation that’s happening here in South Mississippi.
“We’re trying to rethink the way that rockets are typically manufactured," said Sykes. “We’re doing a totally different process than any of the other companies or our competitors are doing out there. So, I feel that we’re really hitting a niche spot."
In order to 3D-print large components, Relativity has created a system named Stargate which it claims is the world’s largest 3D printer of metals.
Relativity plans to 3D print an entire launch vehicle they call Terran 1. The extensive use of 3D printing has allowed the company to iterate designs quickly, use less tooling and human labor.
The system is based on selective laser sintering, which uses laser beams to bond powdered metal, layer by layer, into precise and complex structures that have minimal parts. The company aims at 3D printing at least 95 percent of their launchers, including the engines, by the end of 2020.
The company plans to eventually be able to 3D print a complete launch vehicle in just 60 days.
Relativity’s 20-year lease with Stennis Space Center will allow Relativity to test engine components and eventually test full-scale Aeon 1 rocket engines.
Relativity was also awarded an Air Force contract earlier this year to build and operate Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral. That’s where they plan to launch the first rocket, the Terran 1, in 2020. By 2021, Relativity hopes to start a commercial launch service,
Those interested in working at Relativity can apply by visiting the company’s website.