The world’s first 3D printed rocket is ready for its inaugural flight

California-based Relativity Space conducts a test flight of the world's first 3D-printed rocket, Terran 1

California-based Relativity Space conducts a test flight of the world’s first 3D-printed rocket, Terran 1.

The world’s first 3D-printed rocket is set to lift off from Florida on Saturday in the first flight of an innovative spacecraft billed as less expensive to produce and fly.

Take off rocketTerran 1, was scheduled for Wednesday at Cape Canaveral but was postponed at the last minute due to fuel temperature issues.

The new launch window for a rocket built by California space startup Relativity Space to put satellites in orbit 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM (1800 GMT to 2100 GMT) on Saturdays.

Terran 1 is set to reach low Earth orbit eight minutes after liftoff for a flight intended to collect data and prove it 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.

Terran 1 does not 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, 7.5 feet (2.2 m) in diameter and 85 percent of its mass is 3D-printed using alloys, including the engines.

It’s the largest 3D-printed object ever according to the Long Beach-based company, which aims to produce a rocket that is 95 percent 3D-printed.

Terran 1 is powered by Aeon engines using liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas — “future thrusters,” according to relativity, capable of finally fueling a trip to Mars.

Tim Ellis, Co-Founder and CEO, Relativity

Tim Ellis, Co-Founder and CEO, 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.

Built in 60 days

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 on an Arianespace or SpaceX rocket, and Relativity Space hopes to speed up the schedule 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 the Terran 1 and Terran R can be built from 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 the company in 2015.

“Medium-heavy lift is clearly where it’s greatest market opportunity for the remaining decade, with a massive launch shortfall in this payload class,” Ellis wrote on Twitter.

© 2023 AFP

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