Relativity Terran 1 launch (Source: Relativity Space)

Relativity Space closes $140 million funding round

Rocket builder Relativity Space has closed a $140 million Series C funding round lead by Bond and Tribe Capital. The funding is expected to enable the company to launch a 3D printed rocket and enable the company to transition to commercial operations.

“Relativity was founded with the long term vision of 3D printing the first rocket made on Mars and expanding the possibilities for human experience in our lifetime. With the close of our Series C funding, we are now one step closer to that vision by being fully funded to launch Terran 1 to orbit as the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket,” said Tim Ellis, Cofounder and CEO of Relativity Space.

Other participants in the funding ground include new investors Lee Fixel, Michael Ovitz, Spencer Rascoff, Republic Labs, and Jared Leto, with participation from current investors Playground Global, Y Combinator, Social Capital, and Mark Cuban.

Relativity is building the company around the Stargate factory, an aerospace factory integrating machine learning, software, and robotics with 3D printing technology, enabling the company to build and launch rockets in days instead of years. From raw materials to launch-ready in less than six days, Relativity’s Terran 1 will have a payload capacity up to 1250 kilogram with a 3 meter faring.

Since closing its last round of funding in March 2018, the company has developed a series of larger 3D printers, built fully printed first and second stage structures, printed and assembled a second stage, and conducted more than 200 engine hotfire tests.

Relativity has secured a launch site at Cape Canaveral from the U.S. Air Force, has a 20-year exclusive-use Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA) agreement for five NASA test sites and a 20-year exclusive use lease for a 220,000 square feet factory at NASA Stennis Space Center. The company expects to secure a polar and Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO) capable launch site by the end of this year, presumably at Vandenberg Air Force base in California.

If that’s not enough accomplishments, the company previously announced customer contracts with Telesat to support its LEO constellation; Thai satellite company mu Space; Spaceflight Industries, the leading satellite rideshare and mission management provider to provide dedicated smallsat rideshare missions; and Momentus, a “space tug” provider that moves small and medium satellite customers to GEO.

Relatively will find itself in competition with Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne and Firefly Aerospace. Virgin’s air-launched rocket will put anywhere from 300 to 500 kilograms into orbit for $10 million a launch and is expected to make its first flight by the end of the year. Firefly’s Alpha, expected to fly in the first half of 2020 from Vandenberg, will place up to 1,000 kilograms into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) from Cape Canaveral for a price of $15 million

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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