Inaugural flight of first (mostly) 3D-printed rocket aborted

Relativity Space relatively grounded

The inaugural launch of Terran-1, built by aerospace startup Relativity Space from 85 percent 3D-printed parts, was cancelled Wednesday.

Scheduled to fly at 1300 ET from the US East Coast, the launch – code-named Good Luck, Have Fun, or GLHF – was pushed back due to propellant conditioning issues. Just before it was about to take off, the flight was aborted due to the oxygen in its second stage being outside of desired limits. Relativity attempted to restart the launch process, though missed its orbital window.

"Today's launch attempt for #GLHF Terran 1 was scrubbed due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits for propellant thermal conditions on stage 2," Relativity said in a statement. 

Another launch attempt will be made from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 11 from 1300 to 1600 ET.

Measuring 110 feet tall (33.5 metres) and 7.5 feet wide (2.28 metres), the Terran-1 is mostly made of 3D-printed materials [PDF]. It's claimed the rocket is the first of its kind.

Its printers use proprietary metallic alloy mixtures, where layers are stacked on top of each other as specified in various designs. Relativity claims to use AI algorithms to inspect material quality, making sure it'll be strong enough to withstand orbital stresses.

Relativity Space's Terran-1 3D-printed rocket

Standing tall ... The Terran-1 3D-printed rocket. Credit: Trevor Mahlmann / Relativity Space

Terran-1's nine Aeon 1 engines, for example, including its combustion chambers, igniters, thrusters, turbopumps, and pressuring systems were constructed from 3D-printed alloys. Each Aeon 1 engine burns a mixture of liquid oxygen and natural gas as propellant, and is capable of producing over 10,432 kilograms (23,000 lbs) of thrust each at sea level.


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Relativity prides itself on being able to build rockets quickly and reuse them. The company claims it can build its vehicles in just 60 days, and doesn't suffer supply chain issues or delays since most components are 3D printed in house. 

Good Luck, Have Fun isn't carrying any payloads except a small memento, the upstart's first object printed using its first generation of Stargate machines. Relativity's Terran-1 is designed to fly small satellite payloads of up to 1,250 kilograms (2756 lbs) to low-Earth orbit at altitudes of 500 kilometers (310 miles).

The startup is also working on its next generation Terran-R, a more powerful fully-reusable 3D-printed rocket, and has signed a contract with OneWeb, a communications company, to launch its network of satellites into space. ®

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