COVID-19 hasn’t stopped New Space companies from raising money, with Relativity Space scoring $500 million in a Series D round. It’s a very large round for a company that hasn’t put a rocket on the launch pad much less a payload into space, leading to speculation as to what exactly the money will be used for.
Lead by Tiger Global Management, the round includes participation from new investors Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Baillie Gifford, ICONIQ Capital, General Catalyst, XN, Senator Investment Group, and Elad Gil as well as existing investors BOND, Tribe Capital, K5 Global, 3L, Playground Global, Mark Cuban, Spencer Rascoff, and Allen & Company LLC, among others. Jared Leto participated in at least one earlier round.
Relativity Space brands itself as the “first company to 3D print an entire rocket and build the largest metal 3D printers in the world.” The Series D round will enable Relativity to accelerate its planned initiatives, including its “factory of the future,” launch vehicle development, and 3D printing technologies.
“This past year drove change in every industry, including aerospace. Throughout 2020, Relativity achieved unprecedented growth, attracted top talent, and stepped up to deliver results we could have only imagined when we started the company less than five years ago,” said Tim Ellis, Relativity’s co-founder and CEO. “We are on track to launch our first Terran 1 rocket to orbit next year with existing capital on our balance sheet. With this new Series D funding, we will now dramatically accelerate the development of our long-term plans and look beyond first launch.”
Relativity has raised a total of $700 million in four rounds and reportedly has most of the first $200 million it raised in its first 3 rounds. The company plans to print its first orbital rocket, Terran 1, in less than 60 days by using a combination of 3D printing, AI, software, and robotics, but it is looking beyond launch. “Relativity’s team is creating an entirely new value chain for aerospace, starting with orbital launch,” said the company’s press release.
Among the highlights Relativity cited in its announcement was being selected by Lockheed Martin to launch a NASA mission, launching Iridium NEXT ground spares, and mu Space’s first LEO satellite. Relatively says it is “on track” to launch its first rocket next year from Cape Canaveral next year.
But Relativity also has significant overhead. It has more than 230 employees on staff and an extensive portfolio of facilities, including its Long Beach, California headquarters where it will build its “Factory of the Future,” locations at NASA Stennis Space Center (test site), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (launch), and the “right to enter” to develop a launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base. It also has a Seattle development office and a Washington DC government affairs office.
For the 500 to 1,000 kilograms launch sector, Relativity will be competing against ABL and Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle. Firefly Alpha is going to try for its first launch this year while ABL expects to make a flight sometime in 2021.