This past week was a mixed bag for Relativity Space and their 3D-printed methane-fueled rocket engine. While the company’s Terran 1 rocket blasted off successfully on Wednesday, March 22, the second stage failed to ignite a few minutes after launch. The rocket coasted to an altitude of about 129 km and then returned to Earth, crashing a few hundred kilometers downrange.
But Relativity Space counted this first launch attempt as a success.
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and that competition is a great way to foster progress and innovation. If these truisms are to be believed, then the NewSpace industry is destined to benefit from the presence of Relativity Space, a commercial space company based in Los Angeles. At the same time, SpaceX founder Elon Musk should be flattered that Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone (founders of Relativity Space) are following his example.
Roughly six years ago, Ellis and Noone founded Relativity for the purpose of using new technologies to disrupt the aerospace industry. Earlier this week (Tuesday, June 8th), the company announced that it had raised an additional $650 million in private capital. This money will go towards the development of rockets that are entirely 3D-printed and fully reusable, as well as the creation of a new class of heavy launch vehicles known as the “Terran-R.”