After many failed efforts, Relativity Space has successfully launched their 3D-printed rocket, but the results are mixed. Terran 1 successfully launched from Cape Canaveral late Wednesday, but it failed to reach orbit when the second stage engine fired just briefly. It’s unclear what caused the breakdown, but Relativity promises further information in the “coming days.”
The mission is still regarded as a success by the corporation. Terran 1 was subjected to Max-Q (highest dynamic pressure), the moment that was predicted to put the most strain on the 3D-printed design. There was no customer payload on the rocket. It instead contained the first metal made by Relativity’s 3D printing machine.
According to CNN, the last two launch attempts were hampered by issues. The initial liftoff was impeded by a misaligned boat and a software fault that resulted in an automated engine stop shortly after ignition.
Relativity is utilising the disposable Terran 1 rocket to show the practicality of their 3D printing process ahead of the launch of the reusable Terran R rocket in 2024. The manufacturing technique, in theory, produces simpler, more dependable rockets that are less expensive to produce and may be ready in a matter of weeks. This, in turn, may reduce the cost of launching satellites and experiments into orbit.
While this launch constitutes a step forward, there is increasing pressure to finish testing. Relativity has already secured contracts to launch OneWeb satellites and Impulse Space’s commercial Mars mission. There’s also the issue of competition: rivals such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Rocket Lab aren’t going away, and any setbacks reduce Relativity’s prospects of winning business.