Aerospace

Relativity Space raises $35 million to further first 3D printed rocket on Mars

The Stargate from space exploration technology startup Relativity Space is in development to be “the largest metal 3D printer in the world.” Powered by three robotic arms, the machine promises to build rockets in just a 60 day turnaround, and has its sights set on Mars.

Between launch in 2015 and October 2017, the company had received $10 million in backing from investors including backers including Mark Cuban and Y Combinator.

Now through Series B financing, the company has raised a further $35 million, to propel development towards the Red Planet.

Zero of $45 million in the space of three years

According to Crunchbase, Realtivity Space’s latest financing round was led by science/technology venture capital firm Playground Global. Startup accelerator Y Combinator reinvested in this round, alongside independent businessman and owner of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team Mark Cuban. Palo Alto-based investment firm Social Capital also joined this round.

To date, Relativity Space has raised an estimated $45.1 million in funding.

In an article for CNBC Dylan Taylor, an early investor in the company, comments, “I can’t think of another space company that has raised this kind of money this quickly,”

“It all goes back to the original business plan thesis, as part of what Relativity said is its difference: designing a rocket from first principle as 3D printed.”

95 percent 3D printed

Terran is the the name of Relativity Space’s launch vehicle. A midszie rocket, the Terran is propelled by a 19,500 lbf-Vac thrust engine named the Aeon 1.

According to estimates from company CEO Tim Ellis around 95% of the Terran has been 3D printed thus far.

By using the Stargate metal 3D printer, components in the Aeon engine alone have been consolidated into 100 parts from the 2,700 typically found in engines of this size. Lead times were also cut from 180 days to just 10 thanks to the technology.

Other independent companies working within the field of 3D printing for rocket construction include Aerojet RocketdyneElon Musk’s SpaceX, and Blue Origin, where Relativity’s CEO was previously employed for 2 years.

The Stargate 3D printer at Relativity Space HQ. Photo via Relativity Space.
The Stargate 3D printer at Relativity Space HQ. Photo via Relativity Space.

How the $35 million will be spent

By 2020, Relativity Space hopes to be able to 3D print a 90-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide rocket using its propriety Stargate hardware.

Money from its most recent financing round will be used to expand the company’s resources. In the first instance, Relativity plans build a second version of the Stargate 3D printer.

Second, the company will quadruple its facilities in LA to occupy 40,000 square feet,

The company is also aiming to hire 28 new employees by the end of 2018, including a Mission Manager, Additive Manufacturing Engineer and Additive Process Development Engineer.

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Featured image shows ignition of the Relativity Space Aeon engine. Photo via Relativity Space.