Venture Capital: Relativity Space, Whose Rockets Are 3-D Printed, Is Raising $500M

November 18, 2020 | Latest News, News, Venture Capital
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“We’re one of the most pre-sold rockets in history of spaceflight.”

Relativity Space, a startup building rockets in a “factory of the future” using 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics, is raising $500 million according to CNBC.

The funding round will be led by Tiger Global Management. Existing investors including Social Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator, Bond Capital, Tribe Capital, Jared Leto, and Mark Cuban, may also join the round. People familiar with the financing told CNBC that the funding would value Relativity at $ 2.3 billion.

Stargate and Terran 1

Relativity Space is using 3D printers developed in-house to build the first iteration of its Terran 1 rocket.

Terran 1 will be a next-generation vehicle offering the most agile and affordable launching service on the market. It will be the world’s first 3D printed rocket to be built from raw material to flight in just 60 days at the company’s proprietary Stargate factory.

According to Relativity’s website, Stargate will disrupt 60 years of aerospace manufacturing. Currently, large factories rely on fixed tooling, complex supply chains, and manual labor to build a rocket, made up of 100,000 parts or more, in two years or longer.

Instead, Stargate will employ adaptable, scalable autonomous robotics, a simple supply chain, a six month iteration time, and a two-month build time for a rocket with less than 1,000 parts.

The reduced part count, particularly in engine combustion chambers, igniters, turbopumps, reaction control thrusters, and vehicle pressurization systems, enhances mission reliability. Relativity will use liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas as the propellants for its Aeon1 and Aeon Vac engines.

Aeon 1 rocket engine

Relativity has already conducted more than 400 tests of its Aeon 1 3D printed rocket engine. According to ARS Technica, Relativity successfully completed last week a full duration testfiring of its Aeon 1 rocket engine.

The company ran the engine at full power for 187 seconds at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It tested the engine with all its key components in a flight-like configuration ahead of schedule. This was despite delays due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Despite the coronavirus, we’re on track,” said Relativity’s chief executive, Tim Ellis, to ARS Technica. “The mission-duty-cycle engine test is actually two months ahead of schedule. So I think it really demonstrates how the 3D-printing approach to building a rocket is lightning fast.”

Relativity Space plans

The space start-up plans to launch the first Terran 1 rocket in 2021. This will be a demonstration mission and there would be no customer payload.

However, the company already confirmed for a high-profile Lockheed Martin Mission to demonstrate cryogenic storage of hydrogen in space.

According to Ellis, there is tremendous customer interest in Terran 1.

“We’re not going to talk about specific contract numbers, but you could definitely say we’re one of the most pre-sold rockets in history of spaceflight,” he told ARS Technica.

Related Story:    SpaceX Launches A Full Crew Into Orbit In Historic Milestone

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