3D printing specialist Relativity Space attempts its first rocket launch on Saturday, a mission that marks 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 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET to launch, or postpone as he did after an attempt earlier this week. The company said a ground equipment valve malfunctioned during Wednesday’s attempt, which affected the temperature of the propellant that was pumped into the rocket, but has since resolved the valve issue.
While many space companies use 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, Relativity has actually opted for the approach. The company believes its approach will make building orbital-class rockets much faster than traditional methods, requiring thousands fewer parts and allowing modifications to be made via software. The Long Beach, Calif.-based company aims to create rockets from raw materials in as little as 60 days.
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, with the rocket using liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas as two types of fuel. The company claims that 85% of this first Terran 1 rocket was 3D printed.
The company’s Terran 1 rocket stands on its launch pad at LC-16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, before the maiden launch attempt.
Trevor Mahlmann / Relativity Space
Relativity values Terran 1 to $12 million per launch. It is designed to carry approximately 1,250 kilograms into low Earth orbit. This puts Terran 1 in the “mid-lift” section of the US launch market, between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9 in terms of price and capacity.
Wednesday’s debut for Terran 1 does not carry a payload or satellite inside the rocket. The company stressed that the launch represents a prototype.
In a series of tweets before the mission, Ellis shared his expectations for the mission: He noted that reaching a peak air pressure milestone about 80 seconds after liftoff would be a “key inflection” point in proving the company’s technology.
The exterior of “The Wormhole” factory.