Four years after it was founded in Seattle, Relativity Space has landed its biggest infusion of capital to date — and says the $140 million investment will fully fund its drive to launch the world’s first all-3D-printed rocket into orbit and enter commercial service in 2021.
The company, now based in Los Angeles, was founded by two rocket engineers with connections to Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture: CEO Tim Ellis, who worked on propulsion development and 3-D printing at Blue Origin’s headquarters in Kent, Wash.; and chief technology officer Jordan Noone, who was a Blue Origin intern and went on to work at SpaceX as a propulsion development engineer.
The newly announced $140 million Series C funding round was led by Bond and Tribe Capital. The new investors include a few well-known personalities from the worlds of technology and entertainment, including former Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff, former Disney President Michael Ovitz and actor Jared Leto (who played a high-tech villain in “Blade Runner 2049″).
Others in on the round include new investors Lee Fixel and Republic Labs, plus current investors Playground Global, Y Combinator, Social Capital and Mark Cuban.
“Relativity was founded with the long-term vision of 3-D printing the first rocket made on Mars and expanding the possibilities for human experience in our lifetime,” Ellis said in a news release. With the close of our Series C funding, we are now one step closer to that vision by being fully funded to launch Terran 1 to orbit as the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket.”
Relativity Space manufactures rocket parts at its L.A. facility, using a room-sized, metal 3D-printing machine known as Stargate. The aim is to produce a launch-ready Terran 1 rocket, with a 10-foot (3-meter) payload fairing capable of sending up to 2,750 pounds to low Earth orbit, from raw materials in less than 60 days. The company has said the target price for a launch is $10 million.
“We are excited to complete the development of Terran 1, providing an entirely new value chain for our customers. As we build Terran 1 we will continue to expand the Stargate factory, achieving another milestone toward our long-term vision,“ Noone said.
The company says it’s conducted more than 200 hot-fire tests of its Aeon 1 rocket engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. It’s also secured access to Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 16 in Florida, and plans to secure a launch site for missions to polar and sun-synchronous orbits by the end of this year.
Seattle-based Spaceflight is among Relativity’s announced customers.
Relativity Space’s workforce currently stands at 110 employees. The newly announced Series C round comes in the wake of a $35 million Series B round conducted last year, and brings the company’s total funding to more than $185 million. The new investment will go toward expanding the company’s facilities in Los Angeles, Mississippi and Florida.
In today’s news release, Bond co-founder and general partner Noah Knauf said his firm was “thrilled to invest behind Relativity’s world-class team.”
“We believe the Stargate factory is a template for the future of aerospace manufacturing and provides Relativity’s commercial customers, and eventually humanity, a faster, more reliable, and lower cost way to shuttle important resources from earth to outer space,” Knauf said.
Arjun Sethi, co-founder and general partner at Tribe Capital, drew a parallel to the computer industry.
“Accelerating speed in the design, manufacture and delivery of rockets will become the Moore’s Law of space travel and exploration,” Sethi said. “By optimizing manufacturing for speed, Relativity will increase the frequency of launches in service of growing commercial and consumer needs in space. Just as doubling microprocessor speeds enabled the personal computing revolution, Relativity will push forward an entire ecosystem of hardware and software systems to take humanity beyond Earth’s orbit.”