3D-printed Relativity rocket passed several milestones but failed to reach orbit

What happened now? The first flight of Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket, the largest 3D printed object ever to attempt an orbital flight, finally took place late Wednesday night after two failed attempts. Unfortunately, the rocket failed to enter orbit.

The Good Luck, Have Fun (GLHF) flight took off from Launch Complex 16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. At first it seemed that everything was going like clockwork. There were no problems on the launch pad and at the start. The rocket has reached maximum Q, the point at which the rocket is subjected to maximum mechanical stress, and has also gone through main engine shutdown and stage separation.

This quickly became apparent in Live Streamhowever, something was wrong with the second stage engine, which seemed to sneeze erratically rather than roar. Shortly thereafter, launch director Clay Walker announced an anomaly with the second stage engine. As a result, the rocket failed to enter orbit.

relativity said it will evaluate the flight data and provide the public with additional updates in the coming days.

Terran 1 is a two-stage rocket with a maximum payload of about 2,755 pounds. Notably, this first flight did not have a fairing (meaning no customer payload was sent into space), although Relativity did take a small memento—the first ever circular test print from its Stargate 3D printer—with the ride.

Despite the downside, the launch is still seen as an overall success. By reaching the maximum q, Relativity Space proved that 3D rockets are structurally viable. It also provided the company with a wealth of real-world data that will be useful for future launches.

Relativity has another rocket in the works. The Terran R, an upgraded version of the Terran 1, will be fully reusable and fully 3D printed with the ability to handle a payload of over 44,000 pounds. According to Relativity’s website, the Terran R launch will begin in 2024, although that schedule is subject to change given recent failed launches and an inability to reach orbit.

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