3D printing specialist Relativity Space is attempting its first rocket launch on Saturday, a mission that marks the most important test yet of the company’s ambitious manufacturing strategy.
The company’s Terran 1 rocket is launched from LC-16, a launch pad at the US Space Force facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The mission is called “Good Luck, Have Fun”, and aims to successfully reach orbit. Relativity has a window between 1pm and 4pm ET to launch, or postpone as it did after an attempt earlier this week. The company said a ground equipment valve malfunctioned during Wednesday’s test, affecting the temperature of the propellant pumped into the rocket, but has since fixed the valve problem.
While many aerospace companies use 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, Relativity has actually gone all-in on the approach. The company believes its approach will make building orbital-class rockets much faster than traditional methods, which require thousands of smaller parts and allow changes to be made via software. The Long Beach, Calif.-based venture aims to create rockets from raw materials in as little as 60 days.
Terran 1 is 110 feet tall, with nine engines powering the lower first stage and one engine powering the upper second stage. Its Aeon engines are 3D printed, with the rocket using liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas as two types of fuel. The company says 85% of this first Terran 1 rocket was 3D printed.
The company’s Terran 1 rocket stands on its launch pad at LC-16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida ahead of the initial launch attempt.
Trevor Mahlmann / Relativity Space
Relativity prices Terran 1 to $12 million per launch. It is designed to carry about 1,250 kilograms to low Earth orbit. That puts the Terran 1 in the “medium lift” end of the US launch market, between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in both price and capability.
Wednesday’s debut of Terran 1 does not carry any payload or satellite inside the rocket. The company emphasized that the launch represents a prototype.
IN a series of tweets Before the mission, Ellis shared his expectations for the mission: He noted that reaching a milestone of maximum aerodynamic thrust about 80 seconds after liftoff would be a “key inflection point” in proving the company’s technology.
The exterior of “The Wormhole” factory.