Launch of world's first 3D-printed rocket aborted 70 seconds before liftoff

Relativity Space postpones Terran 1's launch "due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits".
Chris Young
Terran 1 on the launch pad.
Terran 1 on the launch pad.

Relativity Space / Twitter 

Relativity Space, the company aiming to launch the world's first 3D-printed rocket to space, scrubbed its debut launch attempt yesterday, March 8, due to temperature issues that led to a last-minute abort during the countdown.

The company's Terran 1 rocket experienced an automatic abort roughly 70 seconds before a 2:40 p.m. EST (1940 GMT) liftoff attempt from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida.

The world's first 3D-printed rocket

Rocket companies, including SpaceX and Rocket Lab, have long used 3D-printed parts and engines in their launch vehicles but none so far have launched a rocket that is almost completely made from 3D-printed components. Relativity Space aims to change that by launching Terran 1, which is roughly 85 percent 3D-printed by mass.

The firm is also working toward making future models of Terran 1, up to 95 percent 3D-printed. Its next model, the Terran R, meanwhile, will have a larger payload capacity and will be reusable, unlike the expendable Terran 1.

Firstly though, Relativity Space will have to launch Terran 1. The private space firm aimed to reset for a second launch attempt on Wednesday, though it ultimately stood down "due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits" for the fuel temperatures on the rocket's second stage, the company wrote on Twitter.

"We are scrubbing launch operations for the day, thanks for playing," the company's launch director added during the launch attempt live stream.

Relativity Space will make another launch attempt next week

Shortly after the scrub, Relativity Space said during its live launch commentary that it aims to make another launch attempt again next week. "Our next launch attempt window is confirmed for this Saturday, March 11 from 13:00 – 16:00 ET," Relativity Space announced on Twitter.

In an interview with prior to the Wednesday launch attempt, company officials said reaching low Earth orbit (LEO) in its first attempt isn't guaranteed at all and it would be viewed as "a total home run." As such, the rocket won't carry any scientific payload.

"While we obviously had high hopes for sending our Terran 1 off today, we're going to continue to take a measured approach so we can ultimately see this rocket off to Max Q and beyond," Arwa Tizani Kelly, test and launch technical program manager for Relativity Space, explained during live launch commentary.

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