Relativity Space raises $500M to speed up plan to build and launch 3D-printed rockets

Tim Ellis and rocket component
Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis stands alongside a 3D-printed rocket component. (Relativity Space Photo)

Relativity Space says it’s brought in another $500 million in investment to speed up its effort to build entire orbital-class rockets using 3D printing.

The startup — which was founded in Seattle less than five years ago and is now headquartered in Long Beach, Calif. — has attracted more than $685 million from investors so far, and is said to have a total valuation in excess of $2 billion.

That rise to unicorn status has sparked comparisons to another California-based space venture, SpaceX, even though Relativity has yet to launch a rocket.

In a news release, Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis said his company is on track to execute the first launch of its Terran 1 rocket from Florida next year, thanks to existing capital on its balance sheet.

“With this new Series D funding, we

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Will Small Rockets Finally Lift Off?

The boom in demand for placing small satellites into orbit has boosted interest in small rockets, but industry players do not think the niche will become a business segment of its own.

“This time last year, we were able to count over 120 startups for microlaunchers, small rockets that would carry a single small satellite. As we look today, there is a significantly smaller number of those,” said Tory Bruno, CEO of Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), said at a recent industry gathering.

The frenzy of proposals for small rockets, or microlaunchers, comes as new satellite-based phone and internet networks are shifting away from a few satellites in high, geostationary orbits.

Instead they use constellations of many, small satellites placed in low earth orbits (LEO).

Rocket Lab's Electron is just one of two proven small rockets that aim to serve the large market for putting small satellites into orbit Rocket Lab’s Electron is just one of two proven small rockets that aim to serve the large market for putting small satellites

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Red coating contaminates SpaceX rockets, delays crew launch

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX’s second astronaut flight is off until mid-November because red lacquer dripped into tiny vent holes in two rocket engines that now must be replaced.

SpaceX and NASA officials announced the discovery of the potentially damaging contamination Wednesday.

The clogged holes were found after the aborted launch of a GPS satellite on Oct. 2. Two of those engines were contaminated with the bright red coating, which protects engine parts during cleaning.

SpaceX later found the same problem with two of the nine booster engines on the rocket that will launch four astronauts to the International Space Station. It will be SpaceX’s second launch of astronauts for NASA after a successful test flight earlier this year.

The engine trouble prompted SpaceX and NASA to bump the launch to Nov. 14, two weeks later than planned.

A company vice president, Hans Koenigsmann, said new procedures are being

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