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The world’s first 3D printed rocket has launched, but it fails to reach orbit



The company did not initially give any further details.


The world’s first 3D-printed rocket successfully launched on Wednesday, marking a step forward for the California company behind the innovative spacecraft despite failing to reach orbit.

The unmanned Terran-1 rocket, touted as less expensive to manufacture and fly, took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 23:25 (0325 GMT Thursday) but suffered an “anomaly” during second stage separation , as it streamed toward low Earth orbit, livestreamed by aerospace startup Relativity Space.

The company did not initially give any further details.

Although it failed to reach orbit, Wednesday’s launch proved the rocket – 85 percent of its mass is 3D printed – could withstand the rigors of launch.

The successful start came on the third try. The launch was originally scheduled for March 8, but was postponed at the last minute due to propellant temperature issues.

A second attempt on March 11 was scrubbed due to fuel pressure issues.

Had Terran 1 reached low Earth orbit, it would have been the first privately funded vehicle to use methane fuel on the first attempt, according to Relativity.

Terran 1 carried no payload for its first flight, but the rocket will eventually be capable of delivering up to 2,755 pounds (1,250 kilograms) into low Earth orbit.

The rocket is 110 feet (33.5 meters) tall and 7.5 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter.

85 percent of its mass is 3D printed with metal alloys, including the nine Aeon 1 engines used in the first stage and the one Aeon vacuum engine used in the second stage.

It’s the largest object ever 3D printed and was made using the world’s largest metal 3D printers, according to the Long Beach-based company.

Built in 60 days

Relativity’s goal is to produce a rocket that is 95 percent 3D printed.

Terran 1 will be powered by engines using liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas — the “fuels of the future” that may eventually power a trip to Mars, says Relativity.

SpaceX’s Starship and Vulcan rockets, being developed by the United Launch Alliance, use the same fuel.

Relativity is also building a larger rocket, the Terran R, which can launch a 44,000-pound (20,000 kg) payload into low-Earth orbit.

The first launch of a fully reusable Terran R is planned for next year.

A satellite operator can wait years for a spot on an Arianespace or SpaceX rocket, and Relativity Space hopes to speed up the timeline with its 3D-printed rockets.

Relativity said its 3D-printed versions use 100 times fewer parts than traditional rockets and can be built from raw materials in just 60 days.

According to CEO Tim Ellis, who co-founded the company in 2015, Relativity has signed $1.65 billion in commercial launch deals, primarily for the Terran R.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by TOI.News staff and was published by a syndicated feed.)

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