When Perseverance arrives on Mars early next year, it will be the first landfall for a rover carrying 3D-printed metal parts and a small victory for proponents of the technique in the high-cost, high-risk world of the U.S. aerospace program.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, nestled in the foothills of La Cañada Flintridge, has seen a slow cultural shift over the last decade toward the adoption of 3D printing techniques, more formally known as "additive manufacturing," in spacecraft design. The technology uses lasers to melt metal powder that is layered to precise computer modeling, until that metal takes the shape of whatever engineers need.

For years, 3D printing has been relegated to the realm of nerdy hobbyists, but its adoption by startups and big business has helped push NASA leaders toward accepting more innovation despite the risks. These days, 3D printing has been used on airplane engines, houses, hearing aids, chocolates, Tesla car components and even a pair of Adidas shoes.

"I have seen a 3D printed burrito, and it didn't look as delicious as Chipotle," said Scott Roberts, a JPL materials technologist, with a laugh.

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A company that has its sights set on 3D printing rockets on Mars has gained another literal foothold toward making its launches reality.

Los Angeles-based Relativity Space announced Wednesday an agreement with the U.S. Air Force's 30th Space Wing to develop rocket launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base's Building 330 and an adjacent area, bringing its launch capabilities to both coasts. The military base, which is also used by SpaceX for launches, is located roughly 2 ½ hours north of Los Angeles.

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Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.

Today:

  • With Masks in Short Supply, Local Companies Start Sewing
  • SpaceX Making Face Shields and Hand Sanitizer
  • L.A. County's Plan to Expand Available Hospital Beds
  • Can 3D Printing Help Alleviate L.A.'s Mask Shortage?
  • L.A. Mayor Garcetti Doubles Down on Work From Home Orders
  • Riot Games Donates $800K to Help With COVID-19 Effort
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