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Relativity Space launches first 3D printed rocket

Relativity Space successfully launched a 3D-printed rocket on Wednesday March 24, 2023. The first Terran 1 rocket called “GLHF” (Good Luck Have Fun) lifted off from launch complex 16 at Cape Canaveral. The Terran 1 is the largest 3D-printed object to be launched as a rocket.

After two prior scrubbed launch attempts over the last week, GLHF successfully lifted off from the launch pad, and reached two goals during its brief flight:

  1. Max-Q: the point of greatest aerodynamic pressure on the rocket body
  2. Main engine shut off: the completion of the main engine burn

The rocket failed to reach orbit in what appears to be a secondary rocket engine failure. As of press time, there is no news on the exact failure. Without the secondary engine ignition, the rocket did not have enough power to reach orbit.

Relativity Space uses industrial robots to 3D print rocket’s body

Relativity Space is innovating through the use of robotics to 3D print metal items. As shown in the video below, the company uses industrial robot arms to manage the application of welded metal to produce the rocket body and rocket motors. Rocket bodies are currently expensive to manufacture, and 3D printing them promises to reduce costs and reduce weight by creating complex shapes that require less material (by mass) than with current manufacturing methods.

Traditional methods might take 24 months to produce a rocket body, whereas 3D printing can reduce that timeframe to 2 months. Likewise, a 48-month iteration time on a complete rocket assembly can be reduced to 6 months.

The Terran 1 is designed for the future of constellation deployment and resupply. With software-driven design and the use of 3D printing, the payload part of the rocket (in the nose cone) can easily be manufactured to the specs of each individual launch client.

Ultimately, Relativity Space is planning to produce the Terran R reusable robot, further improving the ROI on rocket development as well as the cost per launch. The vision is to create a fleet of reusable rockets to support future missions to the moon, mars and beyond.

The company was founded in 2015 and has raised $1.3B to date. 

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