Relativity Space’s 3D-printed rocket failed three minutes into its debut flight, falling far short of orbit. The rocket was carrying nothing except for the company’s first metal 3D print made six years ago as a souvenir. The startup had planned to put the print into orbit for several days before burning up in the atmosphere with the rocket’s upper stage.
As it turned out, the first stage did its job following liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station & separated as planned. But the first stage appeared to ignite & then shut down, sending it crashing into the Atlantic.
It was the third attempt from what once was a missile site. Relativity Space came within a half-second of blasting off earlier this month, with the rocket’s engine igniting before abruptly shutting down.
Although the upper stage malfunctioned & the mission did not reach orbit, “Maiden launches are always exciting, & today’s flight was no exception,” Relativity Space launch commentator Arwa Tizani Kelly said after Wednesday’s launch.
Most of the 110-foot (33-meter) rocket, its engines, came out of the company’s huge 3D printers in Long Beach, California.
Relativity Space’s rocket, named Terran, is made up of 85% 3D-printed metal parts, setting it apart from other space companies. The startup plans to increase the use of 3D-printed parts in larger versions of the rocket, which will also be reusable for multiple flights.
While other space companies use 3D-printing for their rockets, it is only a small part, highlighting Relativity Space’s innovative approach. Founded in 2015 by a pair of young aerospace engineers, Relativity Space has attracted the attention of investors & venture capitalists.