Relativity’s 3D printed Terran 1 rocket finally launches but fails to reach orbit

There have been a lot of hurdles – which might have questioned AM’s capabilities for aerospace – but Relativity Space lived up to its promise and achieved the successful launch of its 3D printed rocket. The booster experienced an anomaly with its upper stage though, several minutes into its inaugural mission but let us not focus on this today.

The Terran 1 lifted off from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, on its inaugural test flight at 11:25 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 22 (0325 UTC Thursday, March 23).

Despite this, Relativity remains proud of the work achieved so far and optimistic about what’s next: “Today is a huge win, with many historic firsts,” the company said in a tweet, confirming that assessed flight data and updates are expected in the coming days.

For the AM world, this milestone is historical. It’s a proof that AM can do marvels where and when we didn’t expect. As a reminder, Terran remains the largest additively manufactured rocket to attempt orbital flight (34 m height and 2.3 m width).

Working towards its goal of being 95% additively manufactured, Terran 1 was 85% additively manufactured by mass. Terran 1’s first stage is powered by nine Aeon engines, which use liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas as propellants. The second stage has one Aeon Vac engine that’s optimized for operation in the vacuum of space.

Seven years ago, I co-founded Relativity Space, which feels like a lifetime ago, but is an incredibly short time frame in the scheme of things in aerospace,” Relativity Space’s co-founder and CEO, Tim Ellis wrote. “Especially starting as two people in a WeWork, truly from scratch, where we had to rally and scrap together every ounce of funding, team, facility and technology starting from absolutely nothing.

According to Spacefilght, The Terran 1 rocket can carry up to 2,755 pounds, or 1,250 kilograms, of cargo to a low-altitude orbit. That’s significantly more than other commercial small satellite launchers, such as Rocket Lab’s Electron vehicle. Relativity says it sells a dedicated launch on a Terran 1 rocket for $12 million, about twice the price of a flight on the smaller Rocket Lab vehicle.

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