Relativity Space Just Debuted a Fully-Reusable, 3D-Printed Rocket

This could rival SpaceX, whose second-stage Falcon 9 rocket is not reusable.
Brad Bergan

Relativity Space — a 3D-printed rocket aerospace company — just announced its next rocket after Terran 1, a small launch-capable vehicle slated to lift off later this year, according to an initial report from CNBC.

The new rocket is called Terran R and will be much larger than its predecessor. An orbital rocket with roughly 20 times the cargo capacity of Terran 1, Terran R will also be entirely reusable — encompassing both the first- and second-stage rockets, one-upping SpaceX's workhorse, the Falcon 9.

Relativity Space debuts a fully-reusable, 3D-printed rocket

This comes on the heels of major funding rounds with the likes of Y Combinator, along with endorsements from the White House and The World Economic Forum, and even NASA officials.

"When I founded Relativity five years ago, it always was [inspiring to see] SpaceX launching and landing rockets, [and] docking with the International Space Station," said CEO and founder Relativity Space Tim Ellis in a Tech Crunch report. "[T]his idea that going to Mars was critically important for humanity's future, and really expanding the possibilities for human experience, on Earth and beyond."

Relativity Space is already one of the most valuable space firms on Earth

The reusable Terran R rocket is "really an obvious evolution" from the aerospace firm's earlier Terran 1 rocket, said Ellis in the CNBC report.

"It's the same architecture, the same propellant, the same factory, the same 3D printers, the same avionics and the same team," added Ellis in the report.

Ellis also said he's always been a "huge fan of reusability." Despite the reduced cost of rocket construction via 3D printing and automating launch vehicles, "making it reusable has got to be part of that future."

Relativity raised more than $680 million since its founding, five years ago. In the manner of Terran 1, 90% of Terran R will consist of parts gathered via additive manufacturing, using the biggest 3D printers on Earth in what Ellis called "the factory of the future," according to the CNBC report.

As of writing, Relativity is valued at $2.3 billion — making it one of the most valuable private space firms on the planet, with investors like Fidelity, Baillie Gifford, Tiger Global Management, Mark Cuban, and many more.

Relativity Space hiring amid COVID-19 crisis

Unlike SpaceX's Falcon lineup, Relativity aims to keep its first rocket — Terran 1 — in service over the long term. "[I]t's a great product," said Ellis in the report. "We're not pulling a 'Falcon 1 to Falcon 9' change," he added.

Professional engineers looking to make an auspicious entry into the private space industry may be interested to know that Relativity is hiring amid the COVID-19 crisis, with open positions for an Additive Manufacturing NDT Engineer, Automation and Mechanical Engineers, and many more.

While SpaceX holds the prize as the go-to private launch system for NASA and several global governments, there is much room for additional entities to make an entry into the rapidly diversifying business of space launch solutions. From SpaceX to Blue Origin and Axiom, Relativity stands poised to join a highly-competitive (and lucrative) party in space.