Tech & Science

3D-printed rocket launch delayed | CTV News

California-based startup Relativity Space canceled Wednesday’s debut launch of its 3D-printed rocket in Florida over fuel temperature concerns, a key test of the company’s new strategy to cut manufacturing costs. delayed.

The 110-foot (35-meter) Terran 1 rocket, 85% 3D-printed, was scheduled to take off Wednesday afternoon from the US Space Force base’s launch pad at Cape Canaveral. The rocket’s second stage “propellant thermal conditions” decreased during his three-hour launch window, which ultimately forced it to scrub, the company said on his Twitter account.

The rocket’s next launch attempt is scheduled for Saturday between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm (1800 to 2100 GMT EST), according to the company.

Relativity is one of the few U.S. rocket start-ups competing to meet the growing demand for cheap launch services, which can be achieved using giant robotic 3D printers to simplify the rocket production line. We are betting on the expected cost savings.

Most of their rivals are focused on cutting costs by building rockets designed to be reusable, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX-built Falcon 9 booster.

The initial Terran 1 launch aims to validate the company’s assumption that the rocket’s 3D-printed structure can withstand the forces of a launch from Earth.

Josh Brost, Relativity’s senior vice president of revenue, told Reuters ahead of the planned launch attempt.

Brost called Terran 1 “the largest 3D-printed structure ever assembled.”

Widely used in a variety of industries, the 3D printing process involves the rapid curing or fusing of successive layers of soft, liquid, or powdery materials using machines that “print” autonomously. form a solid three-dimensional object. Object designs are scanned from digital blueprints.

Brost said using a 3D printer would allow Relativity to expedite much of the manufacturing process, making it easier to make post-flight changes to improve the rocket’s design if needed. It eliminates the need for complex supply chains that otherwise slow rocket upgrades. .

“The first launch of a new rocket is notorious for many reasons why it needs to be scrubbed,” said Brost. “So it’s completely unlikely that it would take a few tries to get past the countdown and take off for the first launch.”

The expendable Terran 1 is built to carry a 2,755-pound (1,250-kg) satellite into low-Earth orbit, but declining demand for its class of launch vehicles means the Relativity is reusable by 3D printing larger sizes. We decided to develop a new rocket, the Terran R. It is scheduled to fly in 2024.

Currently driving demand is so-called mega-constellation plans by companies such as SpaceX, OneWeb and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon to deploy tens of thousands of internet beam satellites in low orbit over the next few years.

SpaceX will fly its own large rockets to orbit its own Starlink network, while Amazon and OneWeb plan to use similar large rockets from various launch companies for their own satellites. OneWeb will launch its next-generation satellite with Relativity’s Terran R, the companies announced last year.

Relativity has secured launch contracts worth around US$1.65 billion for both rockets, with most of the revenue coming from the larger Terran R.

Market demand for rockets like the Terran 1 is waning, but future flights of the rocket will inform how the Terran R is designed, Brost said.

Asked if Relativity is still selling the Terran 1 to customers, Brost said the company “continues to talk to people about both vehicles.”

(Reporting by Joey Roulette, Washington; Editing by Steve Gorman, Edwina Gibbs, Jamie Freed)

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