This subject combines 3 of my favorite topics. First, 3-D 'Printing', also known as additive manufacturing. Second, the proliferation of small lift or 'lightweight' commercial rocketry. Third, the repurposing of government owned (public owned) assets into a thriving private business.
On 3-D printing, we need to divest ourselves of the image a simple machine producing miniature plastic Yodas. This technology is rapidly maturing and I believe will be pervasive. Taken to its full potential, the process of creating goods through our current chain (cheap labor, shipping, further material handling to a retailer, inventory management and then sales) becomes owning the intellectual property and a local efficient way of making it as ordered. Imagine Amazon distribution centers becoming Amazon manufacturing centers. Every piece of clothing you own is bespoke, perhaps 'printed' in your own home.
Of course there are many challenges. Can you invent a durable, affordable electric motor for a blender or mixer or power tool that can be made this way? More than that, what will happen to all the folks working in the many jobs in the traditional chain? I believe this will effect a profound change in society, in our whole civilization. It will not be an instant cataclysm but IMO it will be as profound as the original Industrial Revolution.
I receive weekly email summaries from Ars Technica on rocketry in three categories. In Small Lift, the number of firms and countries that are launching or planning to launch payloads is growing fast, as are the downsized payloads themselves. Relativity Space is just one of these. This is a two for one, both in rocketry and repurposing public facilities.
Relativity has been using 3-D metal printers (metal is the medium) to make rocket parts and now plans to print an entire rocket. They are serious players, as can be seen by the agreements they have with NASA to repurpose a large facility at the Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, MS. I am familiar with Stennis, as it was one of our locations on the Shuttle External Tank program. They have a launch area at Cape Canaveral as well.
Rocket Labs is another promising firm, building components in California and launching from New Zealand. Of note, their Rutherford motor is the first liquid fuel orbital booster to use an electric powered fuel pumping system. The standard since the V-2 has been the turbo pump, in various plumbing arrangements. They have already been to orbit with their Electron launch system.
The list of companies working in this area seems to grow every month. Virgin Galactic will do orbital launches from an airdropped vehicle. The Pegasus rocket is already in this market, having first flown in 1990. Stratolaunch Systems was started by Paul Allen, among others, and Scaled Composites built an enormous airplane mothership for them but the firm has ceased operations following his death.
These are heady times for these firms. Launch startups are potentially slated for locations in Ecuador, the U.K. and Italy. It would appear likely that there will be some consolidation among all these firms some where in the future but right now it appears they are in a true Golden Age for small lift.