Relativity House provides $ 500 million to the battle chest for scaling the manufacturing of 3D printed missiles
Relativity Space plans to revolutionize the way rockets are built with giant 3D printers – and CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC that the company now has a "war chest" of capital.
"We are pleased to announce a $ 500 million Series D funding round valued at over $ 2 billion from world-class blue-chip investors," said Ellis.
Tiger Global Management led the round, which also included new relativity investors Fidelity, Baillie Gifford, ICONIQ Capital, General Catalyst, XN Capital, the Senator Investment Group and Elad Gil. In addition, the existing Relativity shareholders Bond Capital, Tribe Capital, K5 Global, 3L Capital, Playground Global, Allen & Company, Mark Cuban and Spencer Rascoff also took part in the round.
The theory of relativity's valuation rose to $ 2.3 billion after that round, CNBC reported last week. According to the Pitchbook, Relativity is the second most important private space company in the world after SpaceX. In particular, the Pitchbook ranking does not include the space company Blue Origin, which is funded exclusively by Jeff Bezos.
"This accelerates the dynamic and scaling of Relativity significantly as we focus on production and various infrastructure expansion projects beyond the initial launch," said Ellis. "There are more exciting new initiatives underway with this capital city – which we can discuss further next year … but we are unable to make minor fluctuations in what the technology can do."
Relativity is focused on building the first iteration of its Terran 1 rocket, 95% of which were made with "the world's largest 3D printers," developed in-house. Ellis points out that 3D printing is essentially the entire rocket, less complex and faster to build or modify compared to traditional rockets, which may only use 3D printed parts for a few components. According to Relativity, the simpler process will be able to convert raw material into a rocket on the launchpad in less than 60 days.
Terran 1 costs 12 million US dollars per launch and is designed to carry 1,250 kilograms into low-earth orbit. In terms of price and performance, Terran 1 is in the middle of the US launch market between Electron from Rocket Lab and Falcon 9 from SpaceX.
Tests of the Aeon 1 rocket engine
While Relativity's first launch of Terran 1 doesn't come until later next year, the company has made significant strides in developing and validating the workings of its 3D printing approach to building a rocket. A series of pressurization tests showed the materials were strong enough to take off, and Relativity recently completed a full-duration test fire on its Aeon 1 engine. Nine of the engines will power the Terran 1 rocket.
The company also moved to its new headquarters in Long Beach, California this summer – a 120,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the foundation for its manufacturing and startup business. With the new facility, Relativity's third generation "Stargate" 3D printers can produce a single piece of metal up to 32 feet high.
The factory floor of Relativity's new headquarters in Long Beach, California.
The theory of relativity is expanding its presence in other parts of the United States, with engine test benches at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and launch pads at the US Air Force's Cape Canaveral in Florida and in Vandenberg, California.
"This is really just the beginning of a 10 year vision of how we're going to disrupt this industry," said Ellis.
Why relativity is increasing now
The company had "originally not planned" to raise new capital, said Ellis. Relativity still has most of its funding from the $ 140 million it raised in October 2019, which funded the company's development of the company's Terran 1 rocket through its first launch – a fact that Ellis pointed out will remain until true today. Rather, Ellis realized that the theory of relativity could introduce new means that would enable the company to "get a grip on and accelerate" the work it had begun.
The company's "Stargate" 3D printer.
Ellis also said that it was "certainly a way" to make relativity public through a SPAC deal, but staying private "is the preferred direction for a longshot." SPACs, or special-purpose acquisition companies, have become an increasingly popular method of going public as an alternative to the traditional IPO market. The search for private capital "was a conscious choice" made by the theory of relativity.
"It allows us to lower our heads and execute, and we don't have to worry about the hassle of being a public company today," said Ellis. "We did this very well and are very impressed with the interest from these world-class investors."
Two of Relativity's new major shareholders – Fidelity and Baillie Gifford – previously invested in the space industry as both companies had previously acquired shares in SpaceX. Ellis argued that "Relativity is the first venture-backed company since SpaceX to have this investor class."
"These companies really have a track record of investing in some of the world's most reputable and well-known startups across all industries," said Ellis. "The theory of relativity is at the forefront of an inevitable shift towards software-defined manufacturing. The unique approach to 3D printing we are taking is really … an automation technology that is transforming the entire value chain around building a rocket."
Ellis noted that the company continued to hire quickly this year and now has more than 230 employees.
Mars target of the relativity theory
This view of the rim of Endeavor Crater was acquired by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity at the southern end of "Murray Ridge" on the western rim of the crater.
As the company neared its first launch, Ellis cited Relativity's "long-term vision of building human infrastructure on Mars" as its guiding principle.
"We want to lead and work on the industrial base of mankind on Mars," said Ellis. "This is really because of the 3D printing technology that we can actually launch [ship to Mars] by bringing smaller parts to market."
His goal is similar to Elon Musk's with SpaceX, although relativity doesn't focus on launching humans. Instead, Ellis sees that relativity is helping build it on Mars by first sending a small 3-D printer for "the first object mankind made on another planet," which is "the future we're going to." ".
"I think it will be possible in less than 10 years, maybe a lot faster," said Ellis.
Ellis said he "cheered" SpaceX's work to develop its next-generation Starship rocket, which Musk's company plans to use to bring up to 100 people to Mars at a time. The theory of relativity could "maybe even be done by a Starship customer and our 3D printers could fly to Mars," added Ellis.
"I want to inspire dozens to hundreds of companies to work on the mission to make humanity multi-planetary and expand the possibilities of human experience on both Earth and Mars," said Ellis. "I hope that Relativity's continued success inspires and encourages more entrepreneurs to create companies that can both offer very lucrative short-term business opportunities and help build a sustainable society on Mars."
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