ORLANDO — Relativity Space announced Feb. 22 it will attempt the first launch of its Terran 1 rocket as soon as March 8 after securing a launch license and skipping a planned final test.
The company announced it received a Federal Aviation Administration launch license for its first Terran 1 mission. With the license in hand, the company says it is targeting a launch of the rocket March 8 between 1 and 4 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The mission, called “Good Luck, Have Fun” by the company, is a test flight of the rocket. While Terran 1 is designed to place up to 1,250 kilograms into low Earth orbit, the inaugural launch is not carrying any customer payloads.
The license comes after a series of tests of both stages of the rocket, manufactured largely using 3D printing. Relativity had planned to cap off that test campaign by firing the first-stage engines of the full vehicle on the pad. The FAA license for the launch included a “stage one hotfire” as part of the pre-launch operations covered by the license.
However, a company spokesperson told SpaceNews that Relativity had decided not to conduct that static-fire test. The overall test campaign had “burned down risk significantly” and gave the company confidence in proceeding with a launch without another hotfire of the first stage. The spokesperson added the company had to balance the risk of proceeding with the launch and conducting more tests that add wear and tear on the vehicle, and that the company had decided to accept the higher risk of an abort on its first launch attempt.
Terran 1, while designed to serve the small satellite market, is also a technology pathfinder for the larger, fully reusable Terran R rocket that Relativity is also developing. The company says it has a launch backlog worth more than $1.2 billion for that vehicle, including an agreement last June with OneWeb to launch some of that company’s second-generation satellites.
Tim Ellis, chief executive and co-founder of Relativity, tweeted Feb. 22 that he recalled that his mentor when starting up the company, technology entrepreneur Sam Altman, “told us we were absolutely crazy for trying to simultaneously invent a brand new manufacturing technology and an orbital rocket, which is already super hard.”
“Now we are on the launch pad almost ready to go with the world’s first 3D printed rocket,” he continued. “It’s been a truly wild ride to get to this point, and certainly way harder than I ever imagined going into it – but all the feels from me and our team as we embark on this historic launch.”