Start-up company Relativity Space has unveiled plans to develop a fully 3D-printed, reusable rocket with $650 million (£458 million) in venture capital.
The two-stage rocket, called Terran R, is 66 meters high with a diameter of 5 meters and can launch 20,000 kg into low Earth orbit (LEO).
The 3D printing process uses software-driven manufacturing, exotic materials and design geometries that Relativity Space says are not possible in traditional manufacturing.
“From our founding days in Y Combinator just five years ago, we planned to 3D print Terran 1 and then Terran R – a 20 times larger fully reusable rocket – on our Factory of the Future platform,” said Tim Ellis. , CEO and co-founder of Relativity.
“Along with our first rocket Terran 1, our second product, Terran R, will continue to take advantage of Relativity’s disruptive approach to 3D printing – fewer parts, improved speed of innovation, flexibility and reliability – to bring the next generation to market. of launch vehicles.
“Relativity was founded with the mission to 3D print entire rockets and build humanity’s industrial base on Mars. We were inspired to realize this vision and believe there must be tens to hundreds of companies working towards the multiplanetary future of humanity on Mars.
“Scalable, autonomous 3D printing is inevitably required to thrive on Mars, and Terran R is the second product step in a long-term journey that Relativity is planning ahead.
” The rocket will be equipped with seven 3D-printed Aeon R rocket engines with a capacity of 302,000 pounds. (137,000 kg) thrust each, while the upper stage houses an Aeon Vac engine.
Terran R is designed to provide government and commercial customers with “affordable” access to space, in LEO and beyond. With the advancement of satellite technology, rising demand for bandwidth and satellite constellations making up most of the growing market, Relativity Space hopes its rocket will fit into this growing demand for large constellation launch services.
The $650 million in new funding has been raised from a range of new investors, including BlackRock, hedge fund Soroban Capital and actor Jared Leto. This gives the start-up a valuation of about $4.2 billion, making it the second most valuable private space company behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
SpaceX is also entering the satellite constellation sector and has already launched more than 1,500 satellites designed for its Starlink service.