First 3D-printed rocket fails to reach orbit

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First 3D printed rocket fails to reach orbit

The Terran 1 rocket on its launch pad moments before liftoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The first 3D-printed rocket lifted off Wednesday from Cape Canaveral in Florida, US, but failed to reach orbit due to an “anomaly” during second-stage separation, according to a live stream.

This third failure follows two previous attempts canceled at the last minute due to technical problems.

This mission, dubbed Good luck, have fun(Good luck, have fun), is being watched closely, as 3D printed rockets could be a small revolution in the launch industry.

The Terran Rocket 1, from California-based start-up Relativity Space, was to collect data and demonstrate that a 3D-printed rocket could withstand the rigors of liftoff and spaceflight.

Au in total, 85% of the rocket's mass was 3D printed, and the company is aiming for 95% eventually.

The main advantage of the technique is to greatly simplify the manufacturing process and thus reduce costs.

With its large 3D printing robots, the The company claims to be able to reduce the number of parts required by 100 compared to a traditional rocket. It also highlights the speed of the method: 60 days, from raw material to finished product.

Terran 1 measures 33.5 meters in height and just over 2 meters in diameter. Its first stage has nine engines, also 3D printed.

Its goal: to be able to place 1250 kg in low Earth orbit (small satellites, for example), making it a light launcher. However, this first flight did not contain a payload.

The rocket should have reached, 80 seconds after liftoff, the point where the aerodynamic force exerted on the craft is the highest (max Q, in the jargon). This is the crucial stage of flight, according to the young boss of Relativity Space.

We have already proven on the ground what we hope to prove in flight: that when the dynamic pressure and strain on the vehicle is at its highest, 3D printed structures can withstand these forces, Tim Ellis had chatted in early March.

After the separation of the first floor of the rocket, the second should have continued on its way until it reached Earth orbit, eight minutes after takeoff.

Achieving this step on the first flight would have been unprecedented, said Tim Ellis.

Indeed, the rocket uses methalox as fuel, a mixture of liquid oxygen and liquefied natural gas (essentially methane). If it had succeeded in reaching orbit, it would have been the first rocket using this fuel to do so.

Relativity Space, which promotes the long-term vision of a humanity living on several planets, argues that it is the fuel of the future, the easiest to produce on Mars.

The rockets in development Vulcan, from United Launch Alliance (ULA), and Starship, from SpaceX, must also use this fuel.

A first attempt at launch of Terran 1 had been aborted on March 8 due to a fuel temperature issue.

Then, on March 11, the takeoff had been canceled twice, in the last seconds of the countdown, first because of an automation problem, then because of a fault. a fuel pressure concern.

However successful the maiden flight of Terran 1, the data collected will also be used to develop its big sister: Terran A.

This larger rocket, also developed by Relativity Space, should be capable of carrying 20,000 kg to low orbit.

The company has already signed $1.65 billion in contracts, the majority for Terran R, according to Tim Ellis.

One ​​of them was with the company OneWeb, whose constellation of satellites is to provide Internet from space.

This type of medium-heavy rocket is clearly where the most #x27;most significant market opportunity for the rest of the decade, with a huge shortage currently in this payload class, Tim Ellis tweeted.

A satellite operator can wait years before getting a place in the big rockets of Arianespace or SpaceX.

Dozens of emerging companies have therefore launched these years to meet booming demand.

The number of satellites launched annually has increased from around 120 in 2012 to more than 2,700 in 2022, according to the company spec ialized Euroconsult.

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