Relativity Space sets Saturday launch of 3D-printed rocket from Florida

Scrubbed due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits for propellant thermal conditions on stage 2

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Relativity Space scrubbed its Wednesday launch of their 3D-printed rocket from Florida’s Space Coast.

In a Tweet, the agency said the scrub was due to exceeding launch commit criteria limits for propellant thermal conditions on stage two.

The next launch attempt will be Saturday, with a launch window open between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

The newcomer in the space industry will go for a huge first when the rocket lifts off: launching a rocket built almost entirely by a 3D printer.

The idea is to significantly decrease cost and increase access to spaceflight. Think college students seeking an opportunity to send their own experiments into space.

Lots of people are making lots of things with 3D-printed parts but no one has ever made anything as large as an orbital rocket and tried to send it into space.

Four years ago, News 6 and Erik von Ancken took a trip to the main Relativity Space factory in Los Angeles to see how they do it and why they do it.

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Jordan Noone, chief technology officer and co-founder of Relativity Space, showed News 6 the world’s largest 3D metal printer that prints the entire rocket sections at a time.

It’s so big it needs its own two-story storehouse inside this Southern California factory.

[WATCH: How Relativity Space is 3D printing rockets]

Relativity Space is using new cutting-edge technology to 3-D print rockets.

The rocket engine nozzle is printed as one piece and that makes it more reliable.

“We target under 1,000 parts for our rockets,” Noone said. “For example, the engine you saw has just three parts on it where traditionally that can have 3,000 parts, and all of that is due to the printing, and that all leads into that cost and lead time reduction.”

Relativity employs many former SpaceX engineers, including Noone. Their goal is to build a rocket from scratch to space in 60 days.

The first one, launching from the Kennedy Space Center, is called the Terran One — meaning “of the Earth” because it is printed with materials of the Earth, namely aluminum.

Relativity said its ultimate goal is to put a printer on the Moon and then Mars to print parts for missions without having to wait for them from Earth.

For now, Wednesday afternoon’s goal is just to put the Terran One into orbit with no payload. It’s a test flight called “Good luck, have fun.”

The launch will be from a recycled launchpad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Pad 16.

Relatively took the time not just to rebuild the pad but also to clear it. Crews had to bulldoze the brush because it hadn’t been used in so long.

Relativity Space Cofounder and CEO said, “We will work toward our next launch window in the coming days. Due to methane/Liquid Natural Gas propellant conditioning, it will take a few days until our next attempt.”

At Jetty Park on Wednesday, crowds gathered to try to witness history.

“It’s history in the making. This is exciting and opens up a lot of other things to happen,” said Jean Cronin, visiting from Pennsylvania.

Larry Pizzolato from Chicago added, “It’s got to save money in the long run and the more money you save the more launches you get to do, the more technology you’re going to develop and it’s better for everybody.”

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About the Author:

Erik von Ancken anchors and reports for WKMG-TV News 6 (CBS) in Orlando and is a two-time Emmy award-winning journalist in the prestigious and coveted "On-Camera Talent" categories for both anchoring and reporting. Erik joined the News 6 News Team in 2003 days after the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.