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Relativity Space to Launch a 3D-printed, Methane-powered Orbital Rocket

The inaugural flight of Relativity Space’s new 3D-printed rocket was cancelled on Wednesday (March 8) due to a last-minute abort and temperature difficulties during the countdown.

Around 2:40 p.m. EST (1940 GMT), Relativity Space’s Terran 1 launch vehicle, advertised as the world’s first 3D-printed rocket, underwent an automatic abort roughly 70 seconds before an initial launch attempt at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

While the corporation attempted to restart the launch on Wednesday, it was ultimately forced to stand down “due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits” for the fuel temperatures on the rocket’s second stage, officials noted in a Twitter statement (opens in new tab).

The three-hour launch window begins at 1 p.m. ET (18:00 UTC), and weather conditions at the company’s launch facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida, appear to be optimal. The most likely threat to a liftoff today is a problem with the vehicle or ground systems during the countdown, as is frequent with new rockets.

Assuming the rocket successfully launches, Terran 1 will reach a 365 km by 373 km orbit in exactly eight minutes. But it is far from certain that the Terran 1 rocket, the majority of which was additively constructed by massive 3D printers, will launch as planned. Recognizing that this is a test mission, Relativity has not included any customer payloads.

The Terran 1 rocket can deliver cargo to a low-altitude orbit weighing up to 2,755 pounds (1,250 kilogrammes). That’s a lot more than other commercial small satellite launchers, including Rocket Lab’s Electron. According to Relativity, a dedicated launch on a Terran 1 rocket costs $12 million, which is roughly twice the price of a flight on the smaller Rocket Lab vehicle.

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