Relativity's Stargate SLS 3D printer in 2017
Number of employees
|c. 230 (2020)|
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.
Relativity Space announced its US$500 million Series D funding at US$2.3 billion valuation in November 2020, bringing its total funding amount to US$685.7 million. Relativity is privately funded by Tiger Management, Fidelity Investments, Baillie Gifford, Bond, Tribe Capital, Playground Global, Social Capital, Y Combinator, and Mark Cuban. The company anticipates it will launch its first rocket, named Terran 1, in the fall of 2021.
Relativity Space announced a new 11,000-square-metre (120,000 sq ft) Long Beach, California headquarters and factory in February 2020. This new headquarters houses both business operations and Relativity's autonomous factory. According to an interview with CEO Tim Ellis, the factory has no fixed tooling, which allows it to be rapidly reconfigured and autonomous.
Stennis Space Center
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. Relativity Space plans 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.
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 Air Force Station in Florida. LC-16 has historical significance having been previously used by the US military to launch Titan and Pershing ballistic missiles.
Vandenberg Air Force Base Building 330
In June 2020, Relativity Space announced it plans to develop a second launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to launch payloads into polar orbits and Sun-synchronous orbits, including the Iridium satellite launches, between 2023 and 2030.
Timeline of publicly announced launch contracts
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.
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 a half-dozen missions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Aeon 1 rocket engine is designed to produce 15,500 pounds of thrust (68,975 newtons of force) at sea level and 25,400 pounds of thrust (86,775 newtons) 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 1,000 parts. By March 2018, Relativity Space had completed more than 300 test firings of its Aeon 1 engine, using the E-3 test facility at NASA's Stennis Space Center.
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. The system is based on directed energy deposition, which uses laser beams 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. The company plans to eventually 3D-print a complete launch vehicle within 60 days.
The Terran 1 is an expendable launch vehicle under development that will consist of two stages. The first stage will use nine Aeon 1 engines, while the second stage will use a single Aeon 1 engine. The maximum payload will 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. The rocket will not use helium for pressure but will use autogenous pressurization. Relativity's advertised launch price was US$12 million per Terran 1 mission in June 2020.
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- on YouTube
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