Relativity Space is attempting to break into the lucrative market of space travel—using 3D-printed rockets.
- The past few months have brought many major milestones in aerospace development, with the launch of Artemis 1, the potential launch of SpaceX’s Starship in the coming weeks, and the successful test of the DART asteroid deflection technology.
- Other smaller companies are making headway too, with Relativity Space attempting to join SpaceX as the next big disruptor in aerospace, Ars Technica reports.
- The Terran 1 is a partially 3D-printed rocket currently being constructed and tested that could be test-launched within the coming months. The first completed rocket is going to be static fire tested in the coming weeks and may see a launch attempt from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station afterward.
- A successful test will serve as proof of concept for its upcoming Terran R rocket, which will be comparable in size, power, and reusability to SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and could be tested by 2024 before opening to commercial launches.
- Terran 2 and Terran 3 are scheduled to launch in 2023 and may begin carrying small commercial payloads into orbit.
Why it’s Important
There is much riding on the successful launch of the Terran 1. There has never been a partially 3D-printed rocket, including many core components and structures, and a test launch is necessary to make sure it is technically possible before it can be made commercially viable.
The test may reveal that 3D-printed components won’t survive the rigors and stresses of breaching Earth’s atmosphere and could potentially break up or fail. The company already expects the first launch to be unsuccessful, as no private space company has ever successfully launched on the first attempt before. If Terran 1 does, it would set a new precedent for success.
Relativity Space has already contracted over $1.2 billion in Terran R launches, a rocket that is still in development, but the company is moving forward confidently and has accrued nearly $1.3 billion in investments.
Backing up a Bit
There is a high demand for launch platforms capable of lifting satellites and other communications equipment. With the launch of services like Starlink and other satellite technologies like the iPhone’s SOS feature, space holds the future of communications in addition to the space travel and exploration work being researched by NASA and some private companies.
The cost of reaching space is still extremely expensive though. SpaceX’s reusable rockets have lowered the cost of lifting materials into orbit and Relativity is promising to offer comparable rates for its Terran R launches.
“The vehicle is intended to be priced competitively with the Falcon 9 and meet the enormous demand for launch services in the medium-lift market, especially after Russia’s war against Ukraine removed the Soyuz vehicle as an option for Western companies,” says Ars Technica