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Relativity Terran 1 liftoff
An artist’s conception shows Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket lifting off from Launch Complex 16 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (Relativity Space Illustration)

Seattle-based Spaceflight has signed a launch services agreement to put payloads on Relativity Space’s Terran 1 rocket.

Relativity, a startup that got its start in Seattle but is now headquartered in Los Angeles, says the agreement covers the purchase of a first launch that’s scheduled to take place in late 2021. There are also options for additional rideshare launches in the future, the company said in a news release.

Spaceflight is a service offering of Spaceflight Industries that specializes in arranging launch logistics for payloads on a variety of vehicles, including rockets from SpaceX, Virgin Orbit, Europe’s Arianespace consortium and Rocket Lab.

The payloads typically share a ride alongside other satellites. Spaceflight has made arrangements for nearly 240 spacecraft from organizations in 32 countries, including the Israeli-made Beresheet lander that made its way to the moon (and crashed on the lunar surface last month).

Relativity was founded in late 2015 by CEO Tim Ellis and chief technology officer Jordan Noone, who both had connections to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture. After relocating from the Seattle area to L.A., Relativity picked up high-profile backing from billionaire entrepreneur Mark Cuban and other investors.

The company’s key innovations have to do with autonomous additive manufacturing: Nearly everything on the Terran 1, including its Aeon 1 rocket engine, will be 3-D printed. That’s aimed at driving launch costs for a rocket capable of sending 2,750 pounds of payload into low Earth orbit down to $10 million.

Over the past 14 months or so, Relativity has struck one deal with NASA to use an engine test complex at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and another deal with the Air Force to build a launch facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Base in Florida. Relativity is planning its first test launch of the Terran 1 by the end of 2020.

Last month, Relativity announced a launch contract with Canadian telecom giant Telesat to put satellites for a global internet constellation into low Earth orbit, or LEO, starting no earlier than 2021. It also said it would launch a LEO satellite for mu Space, a Thai space startup focusing on Internet of Things applications, in 2022.

No financial details have been provided for any of the launch deals, including the newly announced agreement with Spaceflight. However, the company said last year that it had more than $1 billion worth of tentative commitments for launches from commercial and government entities.

Curt Blake, Spaceflight’s CEO and president, said Terran 1’s capabilities fit a useful niche in his company’s offerings.

“We consistently look for innovative new technologies that provide flexible, reliable and low-cost access to space for our customers,” Blake said in today’s news release. “Relativity’s autonomous platform and 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket delivers key advantages in launching rideshare payloads.”

Ellis said he and his teammates at Relativity were excited about the prospect of working with Blake’s team “to offer industry-defining lead time, flexibility, and cost for smallsats and cubesats and meaningfully expand the total launch capacity available through Spaceflight’s offering.”

“We look forward to building the space economy together and supporting disruptive commercial and government payload missions,” Ellis said.

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