3D printed Terran 1 rocket launches but fails to reach orbit
A Terran 1 rocket lifts off from an LC-16 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Relativity Space, the 3D printing specialist, launched the first flight of its Terran 1 rocket late Wednesday night, which successfully completed some of the mission’s objectives before failing into orbit.
Terran 1 lifted off from LC-16, the launch pad at the US Space Force facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and flew for about three minutes. While the rocket passed the key target of passing the point of maximum atmospheric pressure during an orbital launch known as Max Q, its engine stalled and shut down early, shortly after the second stage separated from the larger, lower first stage. the part of the rocket known as the booster.
Relativity launch director Clay Walker confirmed that there was an “anomaly” with the upper stage. The company said it would provide “updates in the coming days” after reviewing flight data.
Subscribe here to receive weekly editions of the CNBC Investing in Space newsletter..
Despite failing to reach orbit, the Good Luck, Have Fun mission represents a significant step forward for the company and helped demonstrate the viability of its ambitious manufacturing approach.
While many space companies are using 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, Relativity has gone all-out with this strategy.
The company believes its approach will allow orbital-class rockets to be built much faster than traditional methods, requiring thousands of fewer parts and allowing for changes to be made through software. The Long Beach, California-based facility aims to create rockets from raw materials in the shortest amount of time. like 60 days.
The blue flame of a Terran 1 rocket fueled by a mixture of liquid methane and liquid oxygen (or metalox) at launch.
The 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 and the rocket uses liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas as dual fuels. About 85% of this first Terran 1 rocket was 3D printed.
Relativity is pricing Terran 1 at $12 million per launch. It is designed to deliver about 1,250 kg into low Earth orbit. This puts the Terran 1 in the “medium-lift” section of the US launch market, between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in both price and capability.
The debut launch did not carry any payload or satellite inside the rocket, and Relativity emphasizes that the launch is a prototype.
The company’s Terran 1 rocket sits on launch pad LC-16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida before its first launch attempt.
Trevor Muhlmann / Space Relativity