Relativity Space interrupts the launch of Terran 1, the world’s first 3D printed rocket, twice in one day

Startup Relativity Space’s attempt to launch the world’s first 3D printed rocket on Saturday (March 11) was cut short by two different interruptions due to weather and security delays.

The 3D-printed rocket, called Terran 1, was scheduled to launch on its debut flight from Launch Complex 16 at Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral in Florida during a three-hour window on Saturday afternoon. Despite three attempts, the company was unable to launch the missile after two last-minute emergency stops, including due to starting its engines, and one stop when the boat trespassed into a maritime safety zone.

“Our teams obviously delivered amazing results today and we had high hopes for the launch of our Terran 1, but we are going to continue to take a measured approach so that we can eventually see this rocket reach its maximum Q and beyond.” – Arva . Tisani Kelly, technical lead for Relativity Space’s test and launch program, said during a commentary on the live launch, echoing comments she made after the company’s first launch attempt on March 8, which also ended in failure.

The Terran 1 mission, called Good Luck, Have Fun, carries no payload. He carries only an old 3D printed component from a failed Relativity Space print test as a memento for the company.

Related: Relativity Space to launch satellite ‘tugs’ on 3D printed rocket

Relativity Space’s first Terran 1 rocket is fueled for flight during its second launch attempt from Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral, Florida on March 11, 2023. (Image credit: Trevor Muhlmann/Relativity Space)

Relativity Space’s efforts to launch the Terran 1, a 110-foot (33-metre) rocket designed to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit, began on Saturday at 1:00 pm EDT (6:00 pm GMT), but were delayed by more than for an hour. due to unacceptably high winds in the upper levels. A Terran 1 launch attempt at 2:35 pm EST (19:35 GMT) was thwarted 70 seconds before liftoff by a boat that appeared to be drifting within the restricted launch safety zone.

The company then attempted to launch the Terran 1 at 2:42 pm EST (19:42 GMT), but saw an automatic abort less than half a second before liftoff. According to launch director Clay Walker, the Aeon 1 rocket’s nine engines fired briefly and then shut down due to “violation of launch confirmation criteria.” The company later said that a problem with the rocket’s automatic stage separation led to the abort.

The third attempt to launch the rocket on Saturday was made at 1600 EST (2100 GMT), late in the window, when another abort occurred 45 seconds before liftoff. This abort was caused by a problem with second stage fuel pressure being 1 psi too low, the company said on Twitter.

Video: Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis on 3D printed rockets and the future

“We had to abort internal counting,” Walker said in a webcast to celebrate the launch of Relativity Space. “Most likely, today we washed ourselves. Let’s fix the car, thanks for playing.”

Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket is the prototype for a larger reusable launch vehicle called the Terran R and the first launch vehicle built primarily through 3D printing. Around 85% of the rocket is 3D printed at the California company’s Long Beach plant, Kelly said, with only components such as rubber gaskets, computer chips and valves not being 3D printed.

Terran 1 uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen (or metalox) as fuel, making it the first US orbital rocket to seek orbit on such a mixture, and is designed to deliver a payload of up to 2,700 pounds (1,250 kg) to low Earth orbit. for $12 million per flight. If Terran 1 is successful, Relativity Space will use its 3D printing techniques to create a larger Terran R that is expected to be able to lift a payload of up to 44,000 pounds (22,000 kg) into orbit.

Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space, said that if Terran 1 can leave the launch pad and go through the maximum dynamic pressure phase during flight, he will be happy. He has repeatedly emphasized that the main goal is to show that Relativity Space’s 3D printing processes make it possible to build rockets quickly and inexpensively.

“This launch will not define our long-term success,” Ellis tweeted. (will open in a new tab) ahead of launch attempts this week. “However, this launch will provide us with useful data and insights to help us better prepare for our next job at Bat, and will be a fantastic learning platform for developing technologies directly applicable to the Terran R, giving us great confidence that we ahead in the race to be the next great start-up company.”

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@ or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.

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