An attempt by startup Relativity Space to launch the world’s first 3D-printed rocket on Saturday (March 11) was punctuated by two separate aborts due to delays in weather and range security.
The 3D-printed rocket, dubbed Terran 1, was scheduled to launch from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida during a three-hour window on Saturday afternoon for a maiden flight. Despite three attempts, the company was unable to launch the missile after suffering two last-minute aborts, including its engines ramping up, and a halt when the boat entered the offshore safety zone.
“Our teams obviously pulled off a fantastic shot today and we had high hopes of launching our Terran 1, but we will continue to take a measured approach so we can ultimately take this rocket to max Q and beyond,” said Arwa Tizani Kelly , technical test and launch 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 in a peel.
Terran 1’s mission called “Good Luck, Have Fun” carries no payload. It carries only an old 3D printed component from a failed Relativity Space printing test as a keepsake for the company.
Related: Relativity Space is set to launch satellite tugs on a 3D-printed rocket
Relativity Space’s attempts to launch Terran 1, a 33-meter-tall rocket designed to launch small satellites into low-Earth orbit, began at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) on Saturday but were delayed by more than an hour due to unacceptable conditions high winds in the upper level. An attempt to launch Terran 1 at 2:35 p.m. EST (1935 GMT) was thwarted 70 seconds before liftoff by a boat that appeared to be drifting within the launch containment exclusion zone.
The company then attempted to launch Terran 1 at 2:42 p.m. EST (1942 GMT), but saw an automatic abort less than half a second before launch. The rocket’s nine Aeon-1 engines were briefly started and then shut down due to a “violation of launch commitment criteria,” according to launch director Clay Walker. The company later said a problem with the rocket’s stage separation automation led to the abort.
A third attempt to launch the rocket on Saturday came at 4 p.m. EST (2100 GMT), the end of the window, when another abort occurred 45 seconds before launch. That discontinuation was caused by an issue with the second stage fuel pressure being 1 pound per square inch (PSI) too low, the company announced via Twitter.
Video: Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space, on 3D printed rockets and the future
“We had to cancel the internal count,” Walker said on Relativity Space’s launch webcast. “We’re probably scrubbed for the day. We secure the vehicle, thanks for playing.”
Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket is a prototype for a larger, fully reusable launch vehicle called the Terran R and the first booster built primarily through 3D printing manufacturing. About 85% of the rocket will be 3D printed at the California-based company’s Long Beach factory, using only components like 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 be launched with such a mixture, and is expected to carry payloads of up to 2,700 pounds (1,250 kilograms) into a near-Earth Orbit carry for 12 million dollars per flight. If Terran 1 is successful, Relativity Space will use its 3D printing techniques to build the larger Terran R, which is expected to 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, has said he would be happy if Terran 1 makes it off the launch pad and through the maximum dynamic pressure phase of flight. The main goal, he repeatedly emphasized, is to show that Relativity Space’s 3D printing processes are capable of building rockets quickly and cheaply.
“This launch will not alone determine our long-term success,” Ellis wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) ahead of this week’s launch attempts. “However, this launch will provide us with useful data and insights that will better prepare us for our next battle and is a fantastic learning platform for the development of technology directly applicable to Terran R, giving us a lot of confidence ahead in the race to.” to be the next big carrier company.”
Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @spacedotcom, Facebook And Instagram.