relativity space rocket

Relativity Space attracts $650m for 3D-printed, reusable rocket

Image credit: reuters

Start-up firm Relativity Space has unveiled plans to develop an entirely 3D-printed, reusable rocket with $650m (£458m) in venture capital backing.

Dubbed Terran R, the two-stage rocket is 66 metres tall with a 5-metre diameter and is capable of launching 20,000kg to low Earth orbit (LEO).

The 3D-printing process utilises software-driven manufacturing, exotic materials and design geometries that Relativity Space says are not possible in traditional manufacturing.

“From our founding days in Y Combinator just five years ago, we planned on 3D-printing Terran 1 and then Terran R – a 20 times larger fully reusable rocket – on our Factory of the Future platform,” said Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity.

“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 – to bring to market the next generation of launch vehicles.

“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 rocket will be outfitted with seven 3D-printed Aeon R rocket engines capable of 302,000lb. (137,000kg) thrust each, while its upper stage houses one Aeon Vac engine.

Terran R is designed to provide government and commercial customers “affordable” access to space, in LEO and beyond.

With satellite technology advances, demand for bandwidth soaring and satellite constellations representing the largest part of the growing market, Relativity Space hopes its rocket will fit into this growing demand for large-constellation launch services.

The $650m in new funding has been raised from a raft of new investors including BlackRock, hedge fund Soroban Capital, and the actor Jared Leto. This gives the start-up a valuation of approximately $4.2bn, making it the second most valuable privately held space firm behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

SpaceX is also entering the satellite constellation business, and has already launched over 1,500 satellites designed for its Starlink service.

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