Relativity Space Re-Attempts Launch of First 3D-Printed Rocket

Terran 1 at the Cape Canaveral pad.

Terran 1 at the Cape Canaveral pad.
Photo: Relativity Space

Editor’s note: After several holds and aborted attempts, Relativity Space scrubbed its Saturday afternoon launch of the Terran 1 rocket. The company said further updates and a new launch plan will be issued soon. Check Gizmodo’s Spaceflight in the coming days for more information.

After an aborted launch attempt on Wednesday, Relativity Space is now ready for a do-over. The three-hour launch window for the 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket opened at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, and you can catch the action live right here.

The two-stage rocket is attempting to blast off from Launch Complex 16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during a three-hour window that began March 11 at 1:00 p.m. ET and closes at 4:00 p.m. ET. The company’s live broadcast of the launch is below.

Terran 1: Launching The World’s First 3D Printed Rocket (Pt. 2)

Relativity Space has playfully dubbed this the “Good Luck, Have Fun” mission, and for good reason. No private company has ever launched its own rocket to orbit on the first attempt, let alone a rocket featuring as many cutting-edge features as this one. The company won’t be including a customer payload given the risks.

Terran 1, in addition to being 85% 3D-printed by mass, is fueled by methane. To date, no launch provider, private or public, has managed to successfully deliver a methane-fueled rocket to orbit. The odds seem stacked against Relativity Space to succeed on its first try, but we’re rooting for the California startup, founded eight years ago by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone—two former engineers with Blue Origin.

Relativity Space had hoped to launch the 9.3-metric-ton Terran 1 on Wednesday but was forced to scrub the launch attempt “due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits for propellant thermal conditions on stage 2,” as the company explained on Twitter. In other words, the scrub was called because ground teams couldn’t get the methane fuel in the rocket’s upper stage to reach the required temperature for launch.

Nine 3D-printed Aeon engines power the rocket’s first stage, while a single 3D-printed Aeon Vac engine powers the second. Relativity leverages a proprietary additive manufacturing process to build the engines. Both types of Aeons use a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas, “which are not only the best for rocket propulsion, but also for reusability, and the easiest to eventually transition to methane on Mars,” according to Relativity.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, has been deemed the rocket propellant of the future. An orbital launch attempt was made by China’s Zhuque-2 in December 2022, but the methane-fueled rocket failed to reach its destination. SpaceX’s Starship upper stage rocket likewise runs on methane fuel, but all tests done to date have involved suborbital flights. All eyes are now on Relativity Space to make history.

Reaching orbit would be a glorious outcome, but simply having the rocket leave the launch pad would be a satisfactory outcome. Another key milestone for the GLHF mission would be for the rocket to survive Max-Q—the moment when rockets endure the greatest aerodynamic stress. For Terran 1, this moment will arrive one minute and 20 seconds into the mission. Other key moments will include stage separation, ignition of the second stage engine, and orbital insertion.

We’re excited to see Terran 1 take flight, and to the team at Relativity Space, we only have this to say: Good luck, and have fun.

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