An attempt by startup Relativity Space to launch the world’s first 3D-printed rocket on Saturday March 11 was cut short by two separate failures due to weather and scope safety delays.
The 3D-printed rocket, called Terran 1, was scheduled to launch on a first flight from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida during a three-hour window Saturday afternoon. Despite three attempts, the company was unable to launch the rocket after suffering two last-minute failures, including one that ignited its engines, and a wait when the boat encroached into the offshore safety zone.
“Our teams obviously delivered an amazing shot today and we had high hopes of sending our Terran 1 out, but we’re going to continue to take a measured approach so we can ultimately see this rocket to Max Q and beyond, Arwa Tizani Kelly, test and launch technical program manager for Relativity Space, said during the live launch commentary, echoing comments she made after the company’s first launch attempt on March 8, which also ended with a scrub.
The Terran 1 mission, called “Good luck, have fun”, does not carry a payload. It only contains an old component 3D printed from a failed test print by Relativity Space as a memento of the company.
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Relativity Space’s attempts to launch Terran 1, a 110-foot-tall (33-meter) rocket designed to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit, began Saturday at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), but were further delayed. of one hour. due to unacceptably high winds aloft. An attempted Terran 1 launch at 2:35 p.m. EST (1935 GMT) was thwarted 70 seconds before takeoff by a boat that apparently drifted inside the launch safety range prohibited zone.
The company then attempted to launch Terran 1 at 2:42 p.m. EST (1942 GMT), but saw an automatic shutdown less than half a second before liftoff. The rocket’s nine Aeon 1 engines ignited briefly and then shut down due to a “launch criteria violation”, according to launch director Clay Walker. The company later said that a problem with the automation of the rocket’s stage separation led to the abandonment.
A third attempt to launch the rocket on Saturday took place at 4:00 p.m. EST (21:00 GMT), the end of the window, when another failure occurred 45 seconds before liftoff. The abort was caused by a fuel pressure issue on the second stage, which was 1 pound per square inch (PSI) too low, the company said via Twitter.
Video: Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis talks about 3D printed rockets and the future
“We had to pause the internal count,” Walker said during Relativity Space’s launch webcast. “We’re probably cleaned up for the day. Securing the vehicle, thanks for playing.”
Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket is a prototype of a larger, fully reusable launch vehicle called Terran R and is the first booster built primarily by 3D printing. About 85% of the rocket is 3D-printed at the California-based company’s Long Beach factory, with only components such as rubber seals, computer chips and valves as non-3D-printed parts, Kelly said.
Terran 1 uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen (or methalox) as fuel, making it the first US orbital rocket to reach orbit on such a mixture, and is designed to carry payloads of up to to 2,700 pounds (1,250 kilograms) in low Earth orbit for $12 million per flight. If Terran 1 is successful, Relativity Space will use its 3D printing techniques to build the larger Terran R, which should be able to lift payloads of up to 44,000 pounds (22,000 kg) into orbit.
Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space, said if Terran 1 rolled off the launch pad and went through the maximum dynamic pressure phase during flight, it would be happy. The main goal, he repeatedly emphasized, is to show that Relativity Space’s 3D printing processes are viable for building rockets quickly and cheaply.
“This launch will not singularly define our long-term success,” Ellis wrote on Twitter (opens in a new tab) ahead of this week’s launch attempts. “This launch will, however, provide us with useful data and information that will allow us to better prepare for our next fight, and is a fantastic learning platform to develop technologies directly applicable to Terran R, giving us a lot of confidence. leading the way in the race to become the next big launch company.”
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