Relativity Space Seeks to Join SpaceX as “Disruptor”

Relativity Space is preparing to roll its Terran 1 rocket out to the launch pad in Florida in the next few weeks, setting the stage for its debut flight.

While the rocket is modest in scope, with a capacity to loft about 1 metric ton into low-Earth orbit, the company plans to use this vehicle as a demonstrator for a much larger booster, the Terran R rocket. This ambitious rocket is intended to be a fully reusable vehicle with a payload capacity slightly larger than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

“Almost from the beginning of the company I wanted to build a Falcon 9 competitor, because I really think that’s needed in the market,” said Tim Ellis, co-founder and chief executive of Relativity Space, in an interview with Ars.

The impending test flight of Terran 1 may have a lighthearted name—Good Luck, Have Fun—but it has a serious purpose. Relativity needs to show customers that its novel approach to 3D-printed rockets is viable. While ground testing has validated this approach, Ellis knows that the acid test will come with launch, particularly when the vehicle passes through the time period of maximum dynamic pressure, max q.

If the mission successfully demonstrates this, Ellis expects even more customers to sign on for Terran R, which he hopes to begin flying in late 2024. The vehicle is intended to be priced competitively with the Falcon 9 and meet the enormous demand for launch services in the medium-lift market, especially after Russia’s war against Ukraine removed the Soyuz vehicle as an option for Western companies.

But first things first.

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