TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Aerospace company Relativity Space launched the world’s first 3D-printed rocket from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Wednesday.
The private company launched its Terran 1 rocket, called “GLHF” (Good Luck, Have Fun), from Launch Complex 16, a former missile site, at 11:25 p.m.
The rocket lifted off, but failed to reach orbit in space. The two stages of the rocket separated, but the upper stage appeared to catch fire and then shut down, sending it crashing down into the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the upper stage malfunctioning, “maiden launches are always exciting, and today’s flight was no exception,” Relativity Space launch commentator Arwa Tizani Kelly said following Wednesday’s launch.
Relativity Space said they still consider the launch a success. The aerospace company wrote on Twitter, “Today’s launch proved Relativity’s 3D-printed rocket technologies that will enable our next vehicle, Terran R. We successfully made it through Max-Q, the highest stress state on our printed structures. This is the biggest proof point for our novel additive manufacturing approach. Today is a huge win, with many historic firsts. We also progressed through Main Engine Cutoff and Stage Separation. We will assess flight data and provide public updates over the coming days. #GoodLuckHadFun”
Relativity’s first metal 3D print from six years ago was the only thing on board during the rocket’s test flight, which marked the third attempt at launching Terran 1. Earlier this month, the rocket was just half a second from liftoff when the launch was abruptly scrubbed.
As a two-stage, 110-foot-tall, 7.5-foot-wide expendable rocket, Terran 1 is the largest 3D-printed object to exist and to attempt orbital flight, Relativity says.
“Working towards its goal of being 95% 3D printed, Relativity’s first Terran 1 vehicle is 85% 3D-printed by mass,” the company said on its website. “Terran 1 has nine Aeon engines on its first stage, and one Aeon Vac on its second stage.”
Like the rocket’s body, Relativity says, its engines are also 3D-printed and use liquid oxygen (LOX) and liquid natural gas (LNG), which are not only the best for rocket propulsion but also for reusability, and the easiest to eventually transition to methane on Mars.
Relativity Space was founded in 2015 by a pair of young aerospace engineers. The company has garnered attention from venture capitalists and investors like Mark Cuban of “Shark Tank,” who was an early investor in the company.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.