Seattle-based Spaceflight, which manages rocket launches and provides payload rideshare services for orbital missions, has entered into a launch-services agreement with Los Angeles-based Relativity, which utilizes 3D printing and robotics to manufacture its, called Terran 1.
The agreement, which calls for Spaceflight to utilize Relativity’s rocket in future low Earth Orbit (LEO) missions, includes a first launch set for the third quarter of 2021 ― with options for further launches in the future. Relativity, which bills itself as an “autonomous rocket factory,” expects to conduct its first orbital test launch for its 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket at the end of 2020 and begin commercial service in 2021.
Spaceflight is a leading player in the small-satellite launch industry. Between 2016 and April of this year, the company has managed 14 rideshare launches involving nearly 157 satellites and utilizing a variety of launch vehicles. Through the balance of the year, the company expects to launch an additional 70 satellites via 13 launches on four different continents, according to company officials.
“Relativity is developing the first and only aerospace platform to integrate machine learning, software, and robotics with metal 3D printing technology to build and launch rockets in days instead of years,” a Relativity company statement says. “Built from raw material to launch-ready in less than 60 days…, Terran 1 has a unique architecture that can rapidly change and scale to support each mission’s needs.”
Relativity also recently announced a multi-launch contract with Canada’s Telesat, a global satellite operator. The company was co-founded in 2016 by two engineers who worked previously for billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket-maker SpaceX and for Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Kent-based rocket-maker Blue Origin. Relativity, which was started in Seattle and later moved to Los Angeles, has raised nearly $46 million to date through a three funding rounds involving backers such as Playground Global, Social Capital and Mark Cuban, according to Crunchbase.com.
Spaceflight is part of Spaceflight Industries, also based in Seattle, which has raised more than $200 million in investment capital. The Satellite Industry Association estimates that the satellite industry accounted for 70 percent the global space economy’s 2017 revenues of $348 billion. Global-consulting firm Euroconsult, which specializes in the space market, projects that over the next 10 years, some 7,038 small satellites will be launched worldwide, up from 1,187 during the past 10 years.