World's first 3D-printed rocket Terran 1 is ready for its maiden flight
Relativity Space announced on Twitter that their expendable Terran 1 rocket has secured a launch license and is targeting liftoff on March 8 from Space Launch Complex 16 (SLC-16), Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Florida. The launch window is between 1:00-4:00 p.m. ET (1800-2100 GMT).
The 110-foot (33-meter) Terran 1 will undergo a crucial launch test on the "Good Luck, Have Fun" (GLHF) mission before it launches commercial payloads.
According to Relativity, the rocket is "the largest 3D-printed object to exist and to attempt orbital flight." It's 85% 3D-printed by mass. They hope to eventually produce Terran 1 rockets that are 95% 3D- printed.
Terran 1 rocket's booster, fairing, nine Aeon engines on the first stage, and the one Aeon Vac engine on the second stage are all 3D-printed.
They will use liquid oxygen (LOX) and refined liquid natural gas that is close to methane (LNG) , a combination dubbed "methalox," which is an uncommon combination in the sector. In fact, a rocket powered by natural gas hasn't yet been successful in accessing orbit.
With the small satellite industry as its target market, it is capable of launching 2,756 pounds (1,250 kilograms) of payload into low-Earth orbit (LEO), though Terran 1 will carry no payload for its inaugural launch.
Relativity was founded in 2016 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone. For the time being, the rocket components for Relativity are printed in California, with certain pieces undergoing testing at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi before moving on to the SLC-16 assembly building close to the launch pad.
A spokesperson for the company told reporters that Terran 1's first stage will not undergo a static fire test prior to launch. The previous tests "have burned down risk significantly and have the data and insights we'll need." To minimize wear and tear on the vehicle, the company made the decision to accept a high chance of a launch abort on its initial flight without conducting another test.
Ellis is aware that no privately funded company has ever reached orbit on its first rocket launch. "While the rocket-loving engineer in me wants to say that it's really orbit or nothing for the first flight, the business leader in me knows that customers will tell us what enough looks like for the first flight."
If Terran 1 successfully reaches orbit on its first attempt, it will be the first rocket powered by methane to launch, as well as the first primarily made of 3D-printed components and the first private company to reach orbit on the first try.