Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R

Relativity Space, leveraging their 3D printing technology, has announced the next step towards supporting multiplanetary… The post Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R

Relativity Space, leveraging their 3D printing technology, has announced the next step towards supporting multiplanetary spaceflight: a fully reusable, medium lift launch vehicle named Terran R.

The company’s second launch vehicle, succeeding the Terran 1 rocket to debut later this year, will have more payload capacity than the partially reusable SpaceX Falcon 9, and is only the second fully reusable commercial launch vehicle to be revealed publicly after SpaceX’s Starship.

The two stage Terran R rocket will be 216 feet (65.8 meters) tall and 16 feet (4.9 meters) in diameter. The second stage features aerodynamic surfaces which will enable recovery and reuse, in addition to a reusable 5 meter diameter payload fairing. Terran R will be capable of delivering over 20,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit in its reusable configuration, beating Falcon 9’s 15,600 kilograms with drone ship recovery.

Just like Terran 1, Relativity’s small lift vehicle offering 1,250 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit, the components for Terran R will be 3D printed. Relativity Space aims to reduce cost and improve reliability by designing 3D printed vehicles with a low part count.

Scale comparison of Relativity’s Terran 1 and Terran R launch vehicles – via Relativity Space

“Together with our first rocket Terran 1, our second product, Terran R, will continue to take advantage of Relativity’s disruptive approach to 3D printing – reduced part count, improved speed of innovation, flexibility, and reliability,” said Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space.

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  • What differentiates Terran R from its predecessor is reusability and size. Terran 1 is a fully expendable small lift launch vehicle, while Terran R with full reusability is firmly in the medium lift launch market. Compared to the partially reusable Falcon rocket family, Terran R will offer a payload capacity between that of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

    Powering the first stage of Terran R will be seven Aeon R rocket engines, generating 302,000 lb (1,343 kN) of thrust each. The Aeon R engine is a scaled up, high pressure version of the gas generator cycle Aeon 1 engine to be used on Terran 1’s first stage.

    The upper stage of Terran R will utilize the same Aeon Vacuum engine as Terran 1’s second stage. A pathfinder Aeon Vacuum engine completed full duration testing earlier this year at Relativity’s engine testing facilities at the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

    Like almost all components on the Terran launch vehicles, the Aeon engines are all 3D printed.

    Both Terran launch vehicles are fueled by liquid methane and liquid oxygen, alongside several next generation American commercial launch vehicles such as SpaceX‘s Starship, Blue Origin‘s New Glenn, and United Launch Alliance‘s Vulcan rockets.

    Terran R is scheduled to debut in 2024. The vehicle will utilize the same launch pad as Terran 1, debuting later this year: Launch Complex 16 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

    Relativity has continued to prepare the launch site for operations with the installation of propellant tanks and a flare stack, and a lightning protection system.

    Relativity Space also announced that its first customer launch contract for Terran R has been signed. “Over the last year, we found ourselves being asked by the market to accelerate development of our larger launch vehicle,” said Ellis. “So we knew it was time to double down on our existing plans and scale the Terran R program even faster and build production capabilities at scale sooner.”

    Terran R is intended to enable missions between Earth, the moon, and Mars. “Terran R will be well suited to serve customers’ evolving needs in the large satellite constellation industry,” said Zach Dunn, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing at Relativity Space and former SpaceX engineer, “while also representing a significant leap towards achieving our mission of building humanity’s industrial base off of Earth.”

    Combining reusability and additive manufacturing is aligned with Relativity’s long term goal of enabling a permanent human presence on Mars. CEO Ellis said “Relativity was founded with the mission to 3D print entire rockets and build humanity’s industrial base on Mars. We were inspired to make this vision a reality, and believe there needs to be dozens to hundreds of companies working to build humanity’s multiplanetary future on Mars.”

    “Scalable, autonomous 3D printing is inevitably required to thrive on Mars, and Terran R is the second product step in a long-term journey Relativity is planning ahead.”

    The first step on that journey, Terran 1, is still on schedule to debut in 2021, with more than 85% of the first flight vehicle now 3D printed. Terran 1 has acquired launch contracts from the US Department of Defense, NASA, and commercial customers Iridium and Telesat.

    The same manufacturing architecture that produces Terran 1 hardware will be used to produce Terran R. This scaling will be supported by a $650 million Series E equity funding round from both new and existing Relativity Space investors.

    (Lead render via Relativity Space)

    The post Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

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    OLS grows ahead of Super Heavy debut – Raptor test capacity increases

    SpaceX Starbase may be lacking a rocket at the launch site, but work is still… The post OLS grows ahead of Super Heavy debut – Raptor test capacity increases appeared first on NASASpaceFlight.com.

    OLS grows ahead of Super Heavy debut – Raptor test capacity increases

    SpaceX Starbase may be lacking a rocket at the launch site, but work is still continuing apace on the construction of the Orbital Launch Site (OLS) ahead of receiving the first Super Heavy/Starship stack for an upcoming orbital launch attempt. Signs that the milestone mission is closing in can be seen at the Production Site, with sections of Booster 2 (with sections labeled BN3) and Starship SN20 undergoing preparations.

    Also readying for a busy future is SpaceX’s test center at McGregor, Texas. The newly constructed dual Raptor test stand has completed its first hot-fire test, bringing the Texas site’s capability to five test bays for the Methalox engine.

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  • The fate of Starship SN15, following its milestone success with a smooth test flight and landing last month, is still unknown. It is likely awaiting preparations to go on display at Starbase. It is already sitting on display stands.

    SN16 continues to reside in the High Bay, all but ready for rollout to the suborbital pad. However, that appears increasingly unlikely, as SpaceX focuses on the upcoming orbital attempt from the launch site next door to where SN15 completed its momentous test.

    SN17’s fate is known, with sections of what was to become that Starship now observed as being scrapped at the Production Site.

    Meanwhile, SN20’s aft dome has also been spotted by Mary (@bocachicagal), sporting three mounts for RVacs, indicating SN20 may be the first Starship to fly with both sea level and vacuum optimized engines.

    SN20 has yet to begin stacking, which will take place inside the Mid Bay. The facility was recently vacated by the Super Heavy Test Tank 2.1.

    The Test Tank has since made the journey down Highway 4 to the suborbital launch site for proof testing, a key test series that will provide important data for similar tests conducted with the first full-stack Super Heavy.

    Named “Booster 2” by Elon Musk – likely because this is the second Super Heavy to become a full-stack booster following the pathfinder stacking operations with BN1 – the sections labeled BN3 continue to be stacked inside the High Bay, behind Starship SN16.

    Additional preparations on Sunday saw the large downcomer being transported to the High Bay for installation.

    Super Heavy Booster 2 in the High Bay being stacked behind SN16 – via Mary (@bocachicagal).

    It will eventually become the first Super Heavy to take a road trip to the Orbital Launch Site (OLS), which continues to be a hive of activity.

    Orbital Launch Site: 

    A large workforce continues to work on construction activities at the OLS, with the most dominant feature being the rise of the Launch Integration Tower required to host Super Heavy.

    Three sections are now installed in-situ, with additional prefabricated sections – residing at the Propellant Production site – preparing to roll to the launch site.

    The sections are being lifted into place by the LR11350 crane, which the SpaceXers nicknamed “Frankencrane” due to its variety of boom extensions from various other cranes. It recently gained an extension as the tower height continues to grow.

    The tower already has the support beams for an elevator system, allowing its inner staircase to be removed.

    Next to the tower, the Launch Mount now has its six extensions installed. The launch table – currently being prepared at the Production Site, is also being prepared for transport and installed on the extensions.

    During this time, the third segment of the integration tower has been lifted, then fixed to the rest, thanks to the Frankencrane crane.

    Liquid Oxygen (LOX) and Liquid Methane (CH4) for the huge rocket will be supplied by the Ground Support Equipment (GSE) tanks at the OLS.

    Two GSE Tanks already installed at the OLS – via Mary (@bocachicagal).

    Two GSE tanks have already been installed on their supports, while a third is being prepared for transport.

    A fourth GSE tank is located in one of the bays in the Mid Bay facility, while the 12m diameter Cryo Shells – which will cocoon the tanks with insulation for the cryogenic fluids in the GSE tanks, with gaseous nitrogen used as insulation between the two tank layers – are being built at the Propellant Production facility.

    One Cryo Shell has already been completed and is waiting for installation at the OLS.

    Additionally, parts of the structure that most likely will be used for subcooling the fuels for the vehicle also arrived at the pad, and a 3440kW Natural Gas Generator will be used for power production at the pad.

    McGregor:

    SpaceX’s Rocket Development and Test Facility in McGregor, Texas, is already a key facility for its Falcon and Dragon programs. It is now also tasked with firing Raptor engines produced at SpaceX’s HQ in Hawthorne, California.

    Initially working from two test bays on the initial Raptor test stand, McGregor then converted the old Tripod Stand that had previously been involved with Falcon 9 booster static fire tests.

    The Tripod Stand with a Raptor, as recently observed by NSF’s Gary Blair during a recent fly past.

    Falcon 9 testing has since moved to a ground-level stand, and demand for such testing has decreased thanks to the continued successful return of boosters after launch.

    With two horizontal bays on the dedicated Raptor stand, and one vertical bay on the Tripod stand, engine testing continued to ramp up. However, additional test capacity was required with the upcoming demands of full-stack Super Heavy and Starship launches.

    The new dual Raptor test stand after its first test fire, via NSF’s Gary Blair.

    At the start of the year, groundbreaking took place next to the dedicated horizontal test stand, with construction completed just months later, as per photos in L2’s McGregor section by NSF’s Gary Blair, a local resident who passes the facility in his plane.

    With fit checks undertaken late last month, the new stand was christened with a 15-second Raptor firing on Friday, according to local observer Reagan (@bluemoondance74).

    This new stand will increase engine test capacity by some margin, given each of the vertical test bays available for testing both sea-level and vacuum-optimized Raptors.

    Currently, only one bay of the original Raptor test stand has been used for RVac testing.

    This extra capacity allows McGregor teams to conduct one engine validation firing per day, ramping up the pace of Raptor deliveries in order to accommodate Super Heavy’s tall order of 29 engines per booster, rising to 32 later in the year – all the while, this is particularly important with Super Heavy’s expendable nature in its initial test flights.

    Photos and videos provided by Mary (@bocachicagal) and Gary Blair. Additional information and article assistance provided by: Alejandro Alcantarilla Romera, Evan Packer, Adrian Beil, Anthony Iemole, Liam-Amon Kroke, Leo Bruce, Justin Davenport, and Pierre Bou.

    For live updates, follow NASASpaceFlight’s Twitter account and the NSF Starship Forum Sections.

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