An artist’s expression of the Terran R rocket launching into orbit.
3D printing specialist Relativity Space has raised $ 650 million to step up the development of a fully reusable rocket that will challenge Elon Musk’s SpaceX within three years, the company announced Tuesday. ..
Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC that the money “will be used to accelerate some of the production ramp plates and achieve higher launch frequencies as soon as possible.”
Relativity’s new capital will focus on SpaceX’s flagship Falcon 9 rocket and the Terran R rocket, which is similar in size and power.
The Terran R puts 20 times more rockets into orbit than the Relativity Terran 1 rocket. The latter will be launched by the company for the first time by the end of this year. In addition, according to Ellis, orders from customers for Terran No. 1 have become “the best-selling rocket ever before launch.”
The deal, described by Ellis as “doubled the heart of the war,” came eight months after Relativity raised $ 500 million in a round led by Fidelity and led by Tiger Global. The $ 650 million stake adds BlackRock, Centricus, Coatue and Soroban Capital as new Relativity investors, Fidelity, Tiger, Baillie Gifford, K5 Global, Tribe Capital, XN, Brad Buss, Mark Cuban and Jared Leto. Existing investors such as participated. And Spencer Raskoff – built on top of the previous stake.
Relativity has raised $ 1.34 billion in funding since its inception in 2015, with its valuation rising from $ 2.3 billion in November to $ 4.2 billion. The company’s workforce has grown to 400, and Ellis said the company plans to “add hundreds more this year.”
With an industry-leading $ 74 billion valuation, SpaceX said, “We have signed a deal to create a lot of value. It’s arguably the second most valuable space company in the world.” Ellis said.
The time-lapse seen from the inside of the 3D printed bay shows the manufacturing process of the Terran 1 Second Stage flight tank.
Relativity built the first iteration of the Terran 1 rocket and produced 85% of the launch vehicle. Build Terran 1 with multiple 3D printers, all developed in-house, and do the same with Terran R.
The rocket is designed to be almost completely 3D printed, and according to Relativity, this approach is less complex and faster to assemble and modify than traditional rockets. In addition, Relativity states that a simpler process could ultimately turn raw materials into rockets on the launch pad within 60 days.
“We’re seeing in the market that we need another fast-moving, destructive launch company that’s actually sliding the pack’s destination,” Ellis said.
He added that Relativity “has never taken the SPAC path seriously,” and believes that his company does not need to be listed yet and has “nearly infinite capital” available in the private market. I added that there is. SPAC, or special purpose acquisition company, is a blank check company that raises and publishes funds from investors to fund a merger with a privately held company.
Ellis said it received a higher funding offer than Relativity received from Fidelity, but because of its fame and reputation, it hired the company as a lead.
Relativity Space was ranked 23rd on this year’s CNBC Disruptor 50 list.
A two-story 3D printer bay lined up at the head office.
The Relativity Terran 1 rocket is designed to carry 1,250 kilograms into low earth orbit. This puts Terran 1 in the middle of the US launch market, in the “Medium Lift” section between Rocket Lab’s Electron and SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
However, the Teran R will face the Falcon 9 directly: with a capacity of over 20,000 kilograms towards low earth orbit, 216 feet long at about the same height, slightly wider at 16 feet in diameter, and similar size. The target is the nose cone. Carrying satellites into space.
The SpaceX rocket has nine Marlin engines in its boosters, each capable of thrusting approximately 190,000 pounds. Relativity’s Terran R booster, on the other hand, has seven Aeron R engines, each with a thrust of £ 302,000. Earlier this year, Relativity completed a full-term test launch of the Pathfinder engine using liquid oxygen and liquid methane as fuel.
Musk’s company ships Falcon 9 boosters from California’s headquarters via highways, and according to Ellis, Relativity also sends Terran R boosters by land to the Texas coast, then in Mississippi. Barge to the company’s engine test facility, then another barge to Texas.
Relativity aims to launch the first Terran R mission from the Cape Canaveral LC-16 launch pad in 2024, as well as the first Terran 1 mission. Although relativity has “almost run out of physical space” at its headquarters, which was relocated last summer, Ellis said the core infrastructure needed to manufacture the Terran R is in place, and two more developments in the near future. We plan to add a bay. However, Ellis pointed out that the company has completed work on a new 3D printer head. This will more than double the printing speed.
“It’s not just about adding printer hardware. We’re continuously using data and printing learning to actually speed up the process and make changes to the printer design itself,” Ellis said. I am.
Ellis emphasized that Terran R has been part of the plan since the early days of relativity, as the company has seen “market interest and demand for making this vehicle.” He refused to reveal the customer’s name, but Relativity has the first “prominent” buyers for the launch of the Terran R.
“We have actually done the development. [Terran R] This has been going on all the time, so in many ways it feels like my shoulders are off. “
Completely reuse the rocket
Illustration of the Terran 1 rocket, left, silhouette of a person next to the Terran R rocket.
Ellis is a “big fan” of SpaceX’s next-generation starship rocket, developing it for complete reuse by the Mask company.
“We need a vehicle to bring people to Mars,” Ellis said. “[Starship] It’s huge and I think it needs that ability. “
The Terran R aims to be completely reusable, so Ellis described it as “a miniature starship rather than a Falcon 9 rocket.” SpaceX is reusing the Falcon 9 rocket boosters, but not the upper tier that puts the satellite in orbit. Relativity wants to make the Teran R a rocket that “sees the best possible fresh” by designing it to be completely reusable from the beginning.
The Terran R booster, the first stage, uses the engine to land upright and has features that are “nearly impossible without 3D printing.” According to Ellis, the long-term goal of the theory of relativity is to achieve “hundreds to thousands of reuses” per rocket. Reusing the second stage is the next challenge, and Relativity can build it “from more exotic 3D-printed metal” to make it lighter and to withstand the intense temperatures of re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. To
“The first stage of reuse, or even the second stage, may not work perfectly in the first attempt, but every revenue-generating launch attempt can continue to develop reusability further. “Eris said.
Fully reusable rockets can also quickly transport cargo from one point on Earth to another, and the U.S. military has already shown great interest in SpaceX starship.
“I think point-to-point space transportation is an interesting market we’re looking at,” Ellis said of Terran R.
More broadly, Ellis continues to focus on “building an industrial base on Mars,” and believes that both 3D printing and fully reusable rockets are the keys to achieving that. ..
“No other company has achieved full reusability. I think it’s a bit depressing. We really need to see more companies trying to make the future happen on a large scale,” Ellis said. .. “It’s very difficult for us to do, but we also have some of the best and most experienced teams in the industry.”
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