Many rocket manufacturers use 3D-printing technology to create components for spacecraft—and have been doing so for years. But only one company has built upon the technology to create the first fully printed rocket: Long Beach-based Relativity Space.
After years of development and testing, the vision of Relativity founder Tim Ellis could be realized as early as June 1, the firm announced Tuesday.
The firm successfully completed a 60-second full-duration mission duty cycle test for stage two of its rocket, the Terran 1, at the NASA Stennis Space Center in April. The test marks the first time a 3D-printed stage has undergone acceptance testing.
“A stage two full duration MDC is a pinnacle milestone in stage development,” the company said in its announcement. It “proves that all key stage subsystems (including the engine, structures, fluid systems, avionics and software) can operate in flight-like configuration.”
Relativity also completed acceptance testing for all nine Aeon 1 engines for stage one of the rocket. The company completed its first full-duration mission duty cycle of the Aeon, which ran for 310 seconds, in January.
Both stages will now be shipped to Relativity’s launch pad, LC-16, at Cape Canaveral.
In light of its recent successes, Relativity completed its filing with the Federal Communications Commission for its first launch with a launch window of June 1 through December. While the Terran 1 could blast off as early as June 1, the firm has not yet announced a date for the launch.
“We will be providing a more detailed timeline as we get through more testing/shipping shortly,” the company said in an email Wednesday.
The first mission will not be carrying a customer payload, the company stated. The goal is to “demonstrate that an entirely 3D-printed rocket can fly, then demonstrate it can deliver payloads.”
Assuming the mission is a success, the firm said it plans to move quickly into additional launches for various customers, including NASA.
At 110 feet tall and 7.5 feet wide, the Terran 1 is the latest 3D-printed object in the world, according to the company. To achieve this, the firm created the world’s largest 3D printer, dubbed the Stargate, which currently manufactures the rocket and its components in a building at the Pacific Edge industrial park.
The firm is working on a larger headquarters at the former Boeing C-19 manufacturing hangar, and recently announced some of the work—namely the office space—had been completed.
Relativity also is in the process of developing the Terran R, which is larger than the Terran 1 and will be the world’s first fully reusable 3D-printed rocket. The first Terran R launch is expected in 2024.