Relativity Space, based in Long Beach, Los Angeles, and very much focused on tapping into the latest production techniques, has raised a further $650 million in funding. This means it has now raised some $2.3 billion in the past 5 years.
The cash will help support development of ‘Terran R’ which the company describes as the “first fully reusable, entirely 3D printed rocket”.
The 3D claim includes the rocket’s first stage seven engines which in total can carry 20,000 lbs of payload to low Earth orbit. Terran 1 rockets are the company’s first launch efforts and are priced at the bargain basement (for the rocket industry) of $12 million per launch.
The second-generation Terran R’s vehicle height is massive at 216 ft tall and 16 ft in overall diameter. The key requirements include the ability to carry payloads of up to 5 metres in diameter. The first commercial flights are a few years away.
Test engine firings are happening now of Terran 1’s rocket’s 20 ft tall second stage. There is also a scheduled test flight later this year for NASA which should see a 1.25 metric tonnes cargo launched into low Earth orbit.
Relativity, thanks to very speedy 3D printing and in planning for complete reusability, is clearly targeting SpaceX’s business and matching the power and capability of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 workhorse. But unlike SpaceX which does recovery the important booster portion of the rocket plus the cargo bay nosecone fairings, Relativity intends bringing everything back to Earth on a mix of drone ships and landings on concrete pads.
The company has also attracted some savvy investors including Fidelity, Baillie Gifford, Mark Cuban, Tiger Global and others.