3D printing specialist Relativity Space is attempting its first rocket launch on Saturday, a mission that represents the most significant test yet of the company’s ambitious manufacturing approach.
The company’s Terran-1 rocket launches 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 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. 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 trial, affecting the temperature of the propellant being pumped into the rocket, but has since fixed the valve issue.
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While many aerospace companies are using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, Relativity has effectively taken that approach all the way. The company believes its approach will make building orbital-class rockets much faster than traditional methods, requires thousands fewer parts, and allows modifications via software. Based in Long Beach, California, the company aims to produce rockets from raw materials in just 60 days.
Terran 1 is 110 feet tall, with nine engines powering the lower first stage and one engine powering the upper second stage. The 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 that first Terran 1 rocket was 3D printed.
The company’s Terran-1 rocket awaits its first attempt at launch from its launch pad at LC-16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Trevor Mahlmann / Relativity Space
Relativity puts Terran 1 at $12 million per launch. It is designed to carry about 1,250 kilograms into low Earth orbit. This places Terran 1 in the medium-lift segment of the US launch market between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in terms of price and performance.
Terran 1’s debut on Wednesday carries no payload or satellite in the rocket. The company stressed that the launch represents a prototype.
In a series of pre-mission tweets, Ellis shared his expectations for the mission, noting that reaching a maximum aerodynamic pressure milestone about 80 seconds after launch would be a “major inflection point” for testing the company’s technology.
The exterior of The Wormhole factory.