The first 3D printed rocket prepares to take off. The Terran 1 rocket, built by US aerospace startup Relativity Space, is set to launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida on March 8.
“Terran 1 will be the largest 3D-printed object to attempt orbital flight,” a Relativity Space representative said in a statement. The rocket is about 35 meters tall, making it one of the smallest orbital rockets in the industry, and 85% of its mass is 3D printed. It’s designed to lift up to 1250 kilograms in low Earth orbit, and the company charges $12 million per flight. By comparison, SpaceX’s ubiquitous Falcon 9 Rocket can lift more than 22,000 kilograms into orbit and costs around $67 million per flight.
Terran 1 is fully expendable, and for this first test flight it will have no payload – if the rocket makes it into space, the flight will be considered a success. The company opted to skip a final planned test of the rocket – a static firein which the rocket engines are ignited while the rocket is fixed to the ground – and go straight to launch.
“By not completing static firing, we accept the increased likelihood of an abort on our first launch attempt, but if all systems are nominally functioning, we would rather release and launch on our next operation than continue to carry. the vehicle through additional testing on the ground,” the company representative said. The rocket and each of its engines went through a barrage of tests to get here, and one more test could potentially cause more wear and tear. that it’s not worth it.
The stated purpose of Relativity Space is to facilitate industrial development society on mars, and Terran 1 is way too small to do that. Although it’s designed to put small satellites into orbit, its primary purpose is to serve as a smaller-scale prototype for the company’s 66-meter-tall Terran R rocket, which the company intends to launch for the first time in 2024.
Terran R should be fully reusable, mostly 3D printed and capable of carrying up to 20,000 kilograms into orbit. In addition to launching larger satellites into Earth orbit, Relativity’s website states that Terran R “will also eventually offer customers a point-to-point space freighter capable of performing missions between Earth, the Moon and March”.
“It’s the vehicle customers need,” the Relativity rep said. “Terran 1 is our pathfinder, our development platform to get to Terran R.”