The launch of the world’s first 3D-printed rocket was eventually canceled after several attempts Saturday, marking a new setback for the private owner of an innovative spacecraft billed as less expensive to produce and fly.
Engines were starting to fire on an uncrewed Terran 1 rocket, built by California-based Relativity Space, when an “automation” issue caused the company to abort takeoff for the second time in less than a week.
Shortly thereafter, the company again attempted to launch the spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, but had to abort due to pressure issues with the rocket’s second stage, the company later tweeted.
“The team put in a great effort today and we intend to do so during our next attempt. More to come in the new launch date,” said Resaba.
At some point during the three-hour launch window, which began at 1:00 pm (1800 GMT), the countdown was suspended when a private boat breached Danger area.
An earlier launch scheduled for last Wednesday was also delayed due to last-minute fuel temperature issues.
Once lifted off, Terran 1 is set to reach low Earth orbit eight minutes later for a flight intended to collect data and prove that a 3D-printed rocket can withstand the rigors of liftoff and space flights.
If the rocket can reach low Earth orbit, it will be the first privately funded vehicle to use methane fuel to do so on its first attempt, according to Relativity.
The Terran 1 rocket is not expected to carry a payload on its first flight, but the rocket will eventually be able to put up to 2,755 pounds (1,250 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.
The missile is 110 feet (33.5 m) tall and 7.5 feet (2.2 m) in diameter.
Eighty-five percent of its mass is 3D-printed using metallic alloys, including the motors.
It’s the largest 3D-printed object ever, according to the Long Beach-based company, and it’s made, they say, with the world’s largest metal 3D printers.
Built in 60 days
Relativity’s goal is to produce a 95% 3D printed rocket.
Terran 1 is powered by Aeon engines using liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas — “future thrusters” capable of eventually fueling a trip to Mars, says Relativity.
Vulcan rockets developed by the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX’s Starship use the same fuel.
Terran 1 contains nine 3D-printed Aeon 1 engines in its first stage and a 3D-printed Aeon Vacuum engine in its second stage.
Relativity is also building a larger rocket, the Terran R, capable of placing a payload of up to 44,000 pounds (20,000 kg) into low Earth orbit.
The first Terran R, designed to be fully reusable, is scheduled to launch next year from Cape Canaveral.
A satellite operator can wait years for a spot at Arianespace or SpaceX rocketand Relativity Space hopes to speed up the timeline with its 3D-printed rockets.
“In the long term, a key advantage of 3D printing is the ability to democratize space faster due to its incredible cost-effectiveness, radical flexibility and customization,” the company said.
Relativity said its 3D-printed missiles use 100 times fewer parts than conventional missiles, and can be built from them raw materials In just 60 days.
Relativity has already signed $1.65 billion worth of commercial launch contracts, mostly for the Terran R, according to CEO Tim Ellis, who co-founded a company in 2015.
“Clearly, medium-heavy lift is where it has the greatest market opportunity for the remaining decade, with a massive launch shortfall in this payload class,” Ellis wrote in a tweet.
© 2023 AFP
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