Number of employees
|c. 400+ (2021)|
|Part of a series on|
|Contracts and programs|
Relativity Space is an American aerospace manufacturing company headquartered in Los Angeles, California. It was founded in 2015 by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone. Relativity Space is developing manufacturing technologies, launch vehicles and rocket engines for commercial orbital launch services.
Relativity Space was founded by CEO Tim Ellis and CTO Jordan Noone on the idea that existing NewSpace companies were not tapping enough into the potential of additive manufacturing (3D printing). Relativity is aiming to be the first company to successfully launch a fully 3D-printed launch vehicle into orbit.
In November 2020, Relativity Space announced its US$500 million Series D funding at a calculated US$2.3 billion valuation. In June 2021 Relativity announced another US$650 million funding round led by Fidelity Investments at a valuation of US$4.2 billion, bringing its total funding to US$1.335 billion. The funding will help the development of a fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle, the Terran R, targeting the first orbital launch not earlier than 2024.
The company anticipates it will launch its first rocket, named Terran 1, in early 2022.
Relativity Space announced a new 11,000-square-metre (120,000 sq ft) Long Beach, California headquarters and factory in February 2020. As of February 2020[update], the new headquarters is planned to house both business operations and Relativity's autonomous development operations that the company plans to build into a modern rocket manufacturing factory in the coming years. According to an interview with CEO Tim Ellis in early 2020, the factory is planned to have no fixed tooling, which is hoped to allow it to be rapidly reconfigured and autonomous. A new 93,000-square-metre (1,000,000 sq ft) factory was announced in June 2021, with Relativity set to takeover the former Boeing C-17 production plant in January 2022 to begin production of its Terran R reusable launch vehicle.
In March 2018, Relativity Space signed a 20-year lease at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, a NASA rocket testing facility, to test engine components and eventually full-scale test their Aeon 1 rocket engines. And in June 2019, Relativity Space expanded their work with the Stennis Space Center to include exclusive use of 20,000 m2 (220,000 sq ft) within Building 9101. In mid-2019, Relativity Space planned to create 200 jobs and invest US$59 million in Mississippi over the course of this nine-year lease, which carries an option to extend for another 10 years.[needs update]
In January 2019, Relativity Space announced that it won a competitive bidding process with the United States Air Force to build and operate Launch Complex 16 (LC-16) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. LC-16 has historical significance having been previously used by the US military to launch Titan and Pershing ballistic missiles.[needs update]
In June 2020, Relativity Space announced it plans to develop a second launch pad at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California to launch payloads into polar orbits and Sun-synchronous orbits, including the Iridium satellite launches, between 2023 and 2030.
The Aeon 1 rocket engine is designed to produce 23,000 pounds-force (100,000 N) at sea level and 25,400 pounds-force (113,000 N) in a vacuum. The engine is powered by liquid natural gas (LNG) and liquid oxygen (LOX). It is made out of a proprietary 3D-printed alloy. It is printed by selective laser sintering and assembled from fewer than 100 parts. By June 2021, Relativity Space had completed more than 500 test firings of its Aeon 1 engine, using the E-3 test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center.
The rocket engine Aeon R is under development to produce 302,000 pounds-force (1,300 kN) of thrust. It will be the main engine of the Terran R first stage.
Main article: Terran 1
Terran 1 is an expendable launch vehicle under development that will consist of two stages. As of 2020, the first stage was planned to use nine Aeon 1 engines, while the second stage was being planned to use a single Aeon 1 engine. The maximum payload was expected to be 1,250 kg (2,760 lb) to 185 km (115 mi) low Earth orbit (LEO), normal payload 900 kg (2,000 lb) to 500 km (310 mi) Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), high-altitude payload 700 kg (1,500 lb) to 1,200 km (750 mi) SSO. Relativity's advertised launch price was US$12 million per Terran 1 mission in June 2020. As of August 2021, Relativity hopes to conduct the first launch of Terran 1 in early 2022.
The Terran R is a fully reusable launch vehicle under development designed to compete with SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. The first stage will use seven Aeon R engines, while the second stage will used an upgraded Aeon 1 engine with a copper chamber. With this design, Relativity is aiming to exceed the Falcon 9 payload to low-Earth orbit by approximately 20 percent, with a target payload mass as of June 2021[update] of approximately 20 tonnes (44,000 lb), with a long term goal to make the first orbital launch as early as 2024.
In order to 3D print large components, Relativity Space has created a system named Stargate, which it claims is the world's largest 3D printer of metals. Stargate uses existing welding technology to melt metal wire, layer by layer, into precise and complex structures that have minimal joints and parts. The company aims at 3D-printing at least 95% of their launcher, including the engines, by the end of 2020.[needs update] The company plans to eventually 3D-print a complete launch vehicle within 60 days.
As of June 2020[update], Relativity Space has pre-sold more launches than any other company in the private space industry since SpaceX.
On 5 April 2019, Relativity Space announced its first signed contract. This contract was with Telesat, the Canadian telecom satellite operator. The terms of this contract were not specified, but it did include "multiple" launches of Terran 1.
Relativity Space publicly announced their contract with mu Space in April 2019. It is expected that Relativity Space will launch a mu Space satellite to low Earth orbit in the second half of 2022, aboard Relativity's Terran 1 rocket.
In May 2019, Relativity Space signed a contract with Spaceflight Industries, a satellite rideshare and mission management provider, to launch Spaceflight's dedicated smallsat rideshares. The terms of this deal were not disclosed, however, it was shared that the contract included one launch of Relativity's Terran 1 rocket in the third quarter of 2021, with an option for an unspecified number of additional launches.
In September 2019, Relativity Space and Momentus Space announced their launch service agreement at the 2019 World Satellite Business Week in Paris. The agreement stated that Relativity's Terran 1 launch vehicles will carry Momentus' Vigoride space tug service vehicles into orbit. The contract is for one launch, with an option for five additional missions.
In June 2020, Relativity Space announced that they signed a new launch contract with Iridium. This contract included up to six dedicated launches to deploy ground spare satellites to low Earth orbit (LEO) for Iridium NEXT's constellation on Relativity's Terran 1 vehicle. According to Suzi McBride, Iridium's COO, the satellite communication provider chose to partner with Relativity Space because of their flexible launch capability and the company's ability to launch one satellite at a time. According to the deal these launches will not begin earlier than 2023.
Lockheed Martin announced on 16 October 2020, that it will launch a cryogenic liquid hydrogen management demonstration mission on Terran 1. Lockheed Martin also specified that the launch will make use of Momentus' Vigoride orbital transfer vehicle to house the cryogenic payload. This announcement came two days after NASA announced the recipients of its Tipping Point awards.