Terran 1 Launch scrubbed after two aborts

Relativity Space says the two last-minute aborts were caused by a violation of launch commit criteria, triggering an automated abort mechanism that halted the ignition of the rocket’s nine Aeon 1 engines.

The first attempt to launch the rocket was aborted at T-0.5 seconds, while the second one halted at T-45 seconds, after fuel pressure in the upper stage dropped too low. The company has not yet announced a new launch date for the mission.

This is the first mission for Terran 1, a rocket that Relativity manufactured primarily using 3D-printing technologies. The mission does not carry a payload and is primarily a technology demonstration of the vehicle, including testing if those additive manufacturing techniques are suitable for a launch vehicle. Terran 1 is also testing technologies for its larger, reusable Terran R rocket. The company has $1.65 billion in launch contracts from several customers, including OneWeb, for that vehicle, which could start launching as soon as 2024.

Tim Ellis, the CEO and co-founder of Relativity, expressed his hope that the launch at least gets through the maximum dynamic pressure, or Max-Q, about 80 seconds after liftoff, when stresses on the vehicle peak. “But the key inflection in my mind is surpassing Max-Q,” he wrote. “We have already proven on the ground what we hope to prove in-flight – that when dynamic pressures and stresses on the vehicle are highest, 3D printed structures can withstand these forces. This will essentially prove the viability of using additive manufacturing tech to produce products that fly.”


During the launch webcast, Arwa Tizani Kelly, technical program manager for test and launch at Relativity, explained that the company waited three days between launch attempts to condition the liquid natural gas it uses as fuel for the rocket. That is primarily methane, but includes some butane, ethane, and propane. Methane boils off faster than the other compounds, and if the company were to offload and then reload those same propellants after a scrub, the methane composition would be off. Instead, the company brings in fresh propellants, and the fuel needs some time to level off to the right compound mix before making another launch attempt.

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