Relativity Space has been hard at work on Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. This will be the launch site of their Terran 1 vehicle, expected to launch by the end of 2021, and their fully reusable rocket Terran R. Relativity recently installed the Strongback for Terran 1, a major milestone.

A Strongback functions as its name implies. It is a rigid structure to provide support for a launch vehicle. In the case of SpaceX, their Strongbacks are also referred to as Transporter Erectors (TEs). This is because they also serve as a transporter for Falcon 9/Heavy to the launch pads from the Horizontal Integration Facilities. There are a decent number of similarities between SpaceX’s and Relativity’s Strongbacks but with some key differences that we will discuss.

Relativity Space Strongback

Terran 1 Strongback | Image Credit: Relativity Space

Relativity Space released, to my knowledge, the first pictures of Launch Complex 16 since they took ownership of the land almost a year ago. We can see that there is still a decent amount of work needed before the first Terran 1 launch, but huge progress has been made. The prime feature of this launch site is their Strongback.

This black structure will provide support for the Terran 1 while it is being transported from the Horizontal Integration Facility to the launch mount, the view of which is being blocked by the Strongback. A key difference between this Strongback and the ones SpaceX uses is that this one will be driven on wheels rather than using a set of rails.

SpaceX transporting the Falcon 9 and Cargo Dragon for the CRS-22 Mission to the launch pad | Image Credit: SpaceX

Here you can see a Falcon 9 riding its Strongback to the launch pad. They use a Self-Propelled Modular Transporter (SPMT) that sits under the Strongback, and it carries the vehicle up the ramp to the launch pad. They utilize rails that exist at the launch pad to help guide and stabilize the Strongback on the journey.

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