Last updated on April 13, 2023
Relativity Space, a 3D-printed rocket manufacturer, has announced its plans to abandon future flights of the Terran 1 rocket and shift focus towards the development of its larger rocket, the Terran R.
This decision comes less than a month after the company’s first test flight of the Terran 1 on March 22, which reached space but failed to achieve orbit.
The announcement on Wednesday signals a significant change in direction for the relatively unproven space startup. Relativity Space now expects to conduct additional launches in 2026 when the Terran R is anticipated to be ready for flight.
CEO Tim Ellis stated that the decision to pivot towards the larger rocket was an “obvious choice,” as the demand for larger cargo loads has increased. Ellis revealed that there are few viable solutions currently in the market for such requirements. He also confirmed that the company is now primarily focused on getting the Terran R off the ground, with no concrete plans for launching Terran 1 again.
In 2022, Relativity Space secured a significant deal with British satellite constellation operator OneWeb, further demonstrating the growing demand for larger rockets. The company also reported having $1.2 billion in firm Terran R launch contracts, which underscores the market’s confidence in Relativity’s new direction.
Relativity’s customers have largely embraced the change in direction, according to Ellis, with almost all clients who had reserved space on the smaller Terran 1 rocket agreeing to switch over to the Terran R.
The growing demand for medium- to heavy-lift launchers is driven by the development of massive satellite mega-constellations, similar to SpaceX’s Starlink project. This shift in focus has resulted in a bottleneck in supply for larger transport rockets, as stated by Chad Anderson, managing partner at space-focused venture firm Space Capita.
SpaceX, led by Elon Musk, remains the undisputed leader in this sector, with its Falcon 9 rocket being the only medium to large vehicle currently in operation and readily available for launch. The unavailability of Russia’s Soyuz rocket in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine has further increased the need for diversified launch options.
Terran R is designed to carry between 23,500 and 33,500 kilograms to low Earth orbit, a capability comparable to SpaceX’s Falcon 9. Relativity Space was co-founded by Tim Ellis in 2016 and has gained attention for its ambitious goal of manufacturing rockets almost entirely with 3D printing, which the company claims can accelerate design iteration while reducing costs and labor.
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