Relativity Space's 3D-printed rocket could finally launch this month

"We are vertical again!"
Chris Young
Terran 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Terran 1 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Tim Ellis / Twitter 

Relativity Space is approaching the first-ever launch of its fully 3D-printed rocket, the Terran 1.

The U.S. rocket firm has fully assembled the two-stage small-lift Terran 1 vehicle at the launch pad for "final ground tests," the company's CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis wrote on Twitter, adding that a live stream of the launch will be available on YouTube.

The launch of Terran 1 is "feeling real"

Though Relativity Space has not announced an official launch date, the 110-foot (33-meter) Terran 1 is rumored to be launching from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, at some point this month.

"Getting ready for final ground tests, launch feeling real," Ellis wrote on Twitter. "We are vertical again!!"

Relativity Space's first launch mission is called GLHF (Good Luck, Have Fun), and it will act as an important launch test of the expendable Terran 1 rocket. If all goes to plan, the company will aim to fly customer payloads to orbit.

On its website, Relativity Space says Terran 1 is 85 percent 3D-printed by mass, which makes it the "largest 3D printed object to exist and to attempt orbital flight." The company aims to build Terran 1 rockets that are 95 percent 3D-printed eventually.

The Terran 1 features nine Aeon engines on the rocket's first stage and an Aeon Vac engine on the second. These are all 3D-printed and will use a combination of liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas as fuel — a combnination that has never been used to reach orbit. Terran 1 has a maximum payload capacity of 2,756 pounds (1,250 kilograms) to low-Earth orbit.

The company says its combination of liquid oxygen and natural gas is an ideal combination for eventually carrying out its intended goal of reaching Mars. That's because it is reusable and is "the easiest to eventually transition to methane on Mars."

Relativity Space aims to compete with SpaceX

Relativity Space, which was founded in 2015 by former Blue Origin and SpaceX employees Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone, is also working on a reusable rocket called Terran R.

The Terran R launch vehicle will be 216 feet (66 m) tall and will have a much larger payload capacity of 44,100 lbs. (20,000 kg) to low Earth orbit, bringing it close to SpaceX's Falcon 9 capabilities.

Around the time of its unveiling, Relativity Space said it will be able to 3D print a Terran R rocket in as little as 60 days. If the upcoming launch of Terran 1 is a success, Relativity Space hopes to launch Terran R to orbit by around 2024.

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