California startup granted FAA license to launch world’s first 3D printed rocket

What happened? Relativity Space is ready to launch the world’s first 3D printed rocket into space. The California-based startup recently got a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and even got a launch date. If all goes according to plan, the first launch of Terran 1, called GLHF (short for Good Luck, Have Fun), will take place on March 8, 2023, from Launch Complex 16 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and will live stream on the Internet.

The launch was Relativity’s first orbital test. The rocket is designed to carry a payload of up to 2,756 pounds. Not surprisingly, the startup will not send a customer payload into space as part of its first trip.

Relativity describes Terran 1 as the largest 3D printed object to test orbital flight. The two-stage, expendable rocket measures 110 feet long and 7.5 feet wide, and weighs 20,458 pounds dry. It’s 85 percent 3D printed by mass, but Relativity aims to reach 95 percent eventually.

Helping to defy gravity are nine Aeon engines in the first stage and an Aeon Vac in the second stage. A combination of liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas will fuel the rocket. The startup says its engines will be easier to switch to methane fuel for future missions to Mars.

Terran 1’s successor, Terran R, was unveiled in 2021. It will measure 216 feet long and 16 feet wide with the ability to put more than 44,100 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit. . The 3D printed and fully functional rocket is expected to be launched in 2024.

Cofounder and CEO Tim Ellis, a former Blue Origin employee, SAYS it’s been a real wild ride getting to this point, and it’s a lot harder than he thought. “There is a very bright future ahead for Relativity Space,” he added.

Relativity’s other co-founder, Jordan Noone, spent time at Blue Origin and SpaceX before helping create the startup.

Relativity chose to reject a final test of static-fire in the first stage. A company spokesperson told SpaceNews that Relativity had to weigh the pros and cons of the extra wear and tear from another test flight against the increased likelihood of having to abort their first launch attempt. .

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