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 aborts amid delays from weather and remote security.
The 3D-printed rocket, dubbed Terran 1, was scheduled to launch Saturday afternoon on a debut flight from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida over a three-hour period. Despite three attempts, the company was unable to launch the missile after two last-minute aborts, including when the engines started, and one well as the boat entered the offshore safety zone.
“Obviously our teams had a great shot at it today and we had high hopes for piloting our Terran 1, but we’re continuing with a measured approach so we can eventually see this rocket go to max Q and beyond,” Arwa Tizani Kelly, test and launch technical program manager for Relativity Space, said during live launch commentary, echoing comments she made after the company’s initial launch attempt on March 8, which also ended in a scrub.
The Terran 1 mission, called “Good Luck, Have Fun”, has no payload. It only carries an old 3D printed part from a failed print test by Relativity Space as a memento for the company.
Related: Relativity Space to Launch Satellite ‘Tugs’ on 3D-Printed Rocket
Relativity Space’s attempts to launch Terran 1, a 110-foot rocket designed to launch small satellites into low Earth orbit, began Saturday at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT), but ran for more than an hour. delayed due to unacceptably high winds at the highest level. An attempt to launch Terran 1 at 2:35 p.m. EST (1935 GMT) was thwarted 70 seconds before launch by a boat apparently floating within the keep-out zone of the launch safety range.
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 started briefly and then shut down due to a “launch criteria violation,” 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 abort was caused by a problem with the fuel pressure in the second stage, which was 1 pound per square inch (PSI) too low, the company said via Twitter.
Video: Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space, on 3D printed rockets and the future
“We had to abort the internal count,” Walker said on Relativity Space’s launch webcast. “We’ll probably be scrubbed for today. Secure car, thanks for playing.’
Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket is a prototype for a larger, fully reusable launch vehicle called Terran R, and is the first booster built primarily through 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 gaskets, 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 orbit with such a mix, and is designed to carry payloads of up to 2,700 pounds (1,250 kilograms) to to low Earth orbit for $12 million per flight. If Terran 1 succeeds, Relativity Space will use its 3D printing techniques to build out the larger Terran R, which is expected to carry payloads of up to 22,000 kg into orbit.
Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space, has said that if Terran 1 leaves the launch pad and gets through the phase of maximum dynamic pressure in flight, he would be happy. The main goal, he repeatedly emphasizes, is to show that Relativity Space’s 3D printing processes are viable for quickly and affordably building rockets.
“This launch will not only 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 at bat, and it is a fantastic learning platform for developing technologies directly applicable to Terran R, giving us great confidence that we can move forward in the race to become the next big launch company.”
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @tariqjmalik. follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook And Instagram.
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