What to know about Relativity's third attempt at launching the first 3D-printed rocket

·3 min read

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Update: Relativity Space's Terran 1 rocket successfully launched from Cape Canaveral at 11:25 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 22, and achieved most of the company's demo mission milestones before a second stage anomaly cut the rest short. Overall, the flight known as "Good Luck, Have Fun" was successful beyond what Relativity had initially hoped.


Relativity Space is still targeting this week for the third attempt at launching the world's first 3D-printed rocket after earlier shots were scrubbed due to weather, range, and technical issues at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

If everything goes according to plan, the 110-foot Terran 1 rocket is slated to fly Wednesday, March 22, during a three-hour window that opens at 10 p.m. EDT. The Cape's Launch Complex 16 will host. Here's what to know about the launch:

What's the weather forecast?

Conditions during the window, according to the Space Force's Space Launch Delta 45, should be 95% "go" for liftoff. The only listed concern was the possible formation of cumulus clouds above the pad.

"Favorable weather looks to be in place for the launch attempt Wednesday night," forecasters said Tuesday. "Expect partly cloudy skies in the area so there is a slight concern for the cumulus cloud rule, but the overall coverage should diminish through the late afternoon and early evening hours tomorrow."

Conditions around the Cape should be nice, especially for spectators: 67 degrees at 81% humidity.

Is this Relativity's first launch? What are the goals?

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Wednesday's mission, named "Good Luck, Have Fun" or "GLHF," is the first launch of Terran 1 and for Relativity overall. The privately held company has raised billions so far, so this mission is crucial to its continued success.

Because it's a demonstration mission, there is no customer payload in the fairing. Instead, the company's first 3D-printed object – a three-pound aluminum ring – will fly in its place. Relativity recently explained some of its goals for GLHF:

"Passing Max-Q would be a big inflection point," the company said. "Because it's the phase of flight where the structural loads on the vehicle are the highest, passing this point in flight proves our hypothesis: 3D printed rockets are structurally viable."

Making it even further into the timeline – separation of the first and second stages – would mean achieving a full first stage flight: "That's another big accomplishment for the team. From there, we will attempt to light the second stage and get Terran 1 to orbit."

Why 3D printing?

Using the world's largest vertical 3D printers, Relativity is able to produce rockets faster and more efficiently than traditional processes. Once the company hits a steady pace, co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said rockets could be produced in a matter of weeks or months versus the years it takes to produce more traditional vehicles.

Terran 1 is 85% 3D printed by mass. After the hardware is produced in California, completed rocket stages are shipped to Cape Canaveral using semitrailers.

Relativity also says 3D printing will be essential to long-term habitability in space and on the moon and Mars. Instead of waiting months or years for replacement parts to be shipped off to habitats, for example, astronauts will be able to print the necessary parts right there.

The company's long-term goal, much like SpaceX, is to help establish human settlement on the red planet.

What's the trajectory? Will there be a landing?

Launch hazard area for Relativity Space's third attempt at launching its first Terran 1 rocket, currently slated for 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 22.
Launch hazard area for Relativity Space's third attempt at launching its first Terran 1 rocket, currently slated for 10 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 22.

After liftoff, Terran 1 will fly toward the east. Because it's an expendable vehicle, there will be no landing attempt and the first stage will instead ditch into the Atlantic Ocean.

The company is also planning a larger version, named Terran R, aimed at competing with SpaceX's Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur. That's being planned as a reusable rocket that will be recovered and refurbished after each launch.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Relativity makes 3rd attempt at 3D-printed rocket launch: What to know