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posted by Fnord666 on Saturday April 06 2019, @08:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]

Relativity Space announces first launch contract, and it's a big one

The ambitious rocket company Relativity announced its first customer on Friday, the global satellite operator Telesat. The contract for flights on the Terran 1 rocket includes "multiple" launches, but Relativity chief executive Tim Ellis said he could not provide additional details.

[...] Relativity considers this a huge win because it offers another validation of its—and really, this is not an exaggeration—revolutionary approach to launch. The company aspires to use large 3D printers to manufacture nearly the entirety of a rocket, thereby automating the process and taking another step toward low-cost, launch-on-demand service. It's one thing for a private company to build a new rocket to launch small satellites, it's another to try and remake the manufacturing process as well.

Ellis said Telesat has been in discussions with Relativity for awhile, so the satellite operator has had good access to Relativity's launch technology. After this due diligence, Telesat chose Relativity in addition to previous deals with SpaceX, Arianespace, and Blue Origin. Effectively, Telesat has decided that Relativity's Terran 1 booster, with a capacity of 1.25 tons to low Earth orbit, has the right stuff to help launch a major low Earth orbit satellite constellation that will provide global broadband connectivity.

Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat

Related: Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit


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Related Stories

Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi

Relativity Space has signed a 20-year deal with NASA to lease the 25-acre E4 Test Complex in Southern Mississippi. The company's footprint there could be expanded to 250 acres:

Even in an era during which the aerospace industry faces significant disruption from myriad new competitors, Relativity Space stands out. The company, led by a pair of twenty-somethings who used to work for Blue Origin and SpaceX, seeks to 3D print rocket engines and the boosters themselves, reducing the number of parts in an orbital rocket from 100,000 down to fewer than 1,000.

Founded in late 2015, Relativity remained in stealth mode until last year, but now it is starting to come out of the shadows. And in doing so, the California-based company is revealing some pretty outsized ambitions. One day, in fact, the company intends to 3D print a rocket on Mars for a return trip to Earth. "We have a pretty broad long-term vision," Tim Ellis, a co-founder of Relativity, admitted in an interview with Ars.

Before it reaches Mars, of course, Relativity must first successfully 3D print a rocket on Earth. Ellis said Relativity is making good progress toward that goal, having already printed engine components for test firings. (The company has performed more than 85 engine tests of various kinds to date). Now, the company has taken a key step toward conducting a lot more engine test firings.

Relativity plans to fly 1,250 kg to LEO for $10 million per launch, with a test flight in late 2020 and commercial launches in 2021. Other small launch providers are targeting payloads in the hundreds of kilograms range.

Also at Quartz.


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Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America’s Busiest Spaceport 11 comments

Submitted via IRC for takyon

Aerospace startup making 3D-printed rockets now has a launch site at America’s busiest spaceport

America’s busiest spaceport in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is about to get a new tenant: a startup that shares SpaceX’s ambitious plans of turning humans into a multiplanetary species. The new occupant is LA-based launch provider Relativity Space, a company that wants to revolutionize how rockets are manufactured through the use of fully automated 3D printing. The company will soon have its very own launch site at the Cape for its future 3D-printed vehicles.

Thanks to a new deal with the US Air Force, Relativity will be taking over a site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station called LC-16. It’s a pad that was once used by the US military to launch Titan and Pershing ballistic missiles. But since the late 1980s, LC-16 has been dormant. The Air Force picked Relativity to move into the area after a very competitive bidding process, and the company will modify the pad to suit its rocket technology. “Getting the launch site agreement was a huge checkmark,” Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space, tells The Verge. “That was the final infrastructure piece we need to have a clear path toward launching.”

Over the last year, Relativity has quickly established itself as a serious player in the commercial space industry. The company, which was founded in 2016, has raised more than $45 million in funding. It also has multiple workspaces in Los Angeles, and it’s currently using facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test the Aeon engine it’s been working on. As of now, Relativity has done 124 test fires of its rocket engine, in pursuit of launching the company’s first rocket by 2020.

[...] Relativity’s goal is to disrupt the entire process of manufacturing rockets. “For the last 60 years, the way rockets have been built hasn’t really changed,” says Ellis. Instead of relying on the traditional, complicated assembly line of machines and people sculpting and piecing together parts of a vehicle, Relativity wants to make building a rocket almost entirely automated. The trick? Using giant 3D printers that can create all of the parts needed to build a rocket — from the engines to the propellant tanks and structure.

Blue Origin to Provide Multiple Orbital Launches for Telesat 1 comment

Telesat signs New Glenn multi-launch agreement with Blue Origin for LEO missions

Canadian fleet operator Telesat has agreed to launch satellites for its future low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation on multiple New Glenn missions, Blue Origin announced Jan. 31.

The agreement, for an unspecified number of launches and satellites, makes Telesat the fifth customer to sign up to use the reusable launcher, which is slated for a maiden flight in 2021.

"Blue Origin's powerful New Glenn rocket is a disruptive force in the launch services market which, in turn, will help Telesat disrupt the economics and performance of global broadband connectivity," Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg said in a news release.

Blue Origin already has eight other New Glenn missions in backlog: one each for Paris-based Eutelsat, Sky Perfect JSAT of Japan and Thai startup Mu Space, plus five launches for low-Earth-orbit megaconstellation company OneWeb.

SpaceX's Starlink constellation would compete with Telesat's low Earth orbit broadband offering. Perhaps that factored into the choice of Blue Origin as launch provider.

New Glenn rocket.

Related: Blue Origin to Compete to Launch U.S. Military Payloads
Blue Origin Wins Contract to Supply United Launch Alliance With BE-4 Rocket Engines
The Military Chooses Which Rockets It Wants Built for the Next Decade
Blue Origin Starts Construction of Rocket Engine Factory in Alabama


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Amazon Planning its Own Satellite-Based Broadband Service, with 3,236 Satellites in Low Earth Orbit 15 comments

Amazon to offer broadband access from orbit with 3,236-satellite 'Project Kuiper' constellation

Amazon is joining the race to provide broadband internet access around the globe via thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit, newly uncovered filings show.

The effort, code-named Project Kuiper, follows up on last September's mysterious reports that Amazon was planning a "big, audacious space project" involving satellites and space-based systems. The Seattle-based company is likely to spend billions of dollars on the project, and could conceivably reap billions of dollars in revenue once the satellites go into commercial service.

It'll take years to bring the big, audacious project to fruition, however, and Amazon could face fierce competition from SpaceX, OneWeb and other high-profile players.

[...] The filings lay out a plan to put 3,236 satellites in low Earth orbit — including 784 satellites at an altitude of 367 miles (590 kilometers); 1,296 satellites at a height of 379 miles (610 kilometers); and 1,156 satellites in 391-mile (630-kilometer) orbits.

In response to GeekWire's inquiries, Amazon confirmed that Kuiper Systems is actually one of its projects.

"Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of low Earth orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world," an Amazon spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision."

Amazon said the satellites would provide data coverage for spots on Earth ranging in latitude from 56 degrees north to 56 degrees south. About 95 percent of the world's population lives within that wide swath of the planet.

Relativity Space Announces Fully Reusable "Terran R" Rocket, Planned for 2024 Debut 19 comments

Relativity Space reveals fully reusable medium lift launch vehicle Terran R

Relativity Space, leveraging their 3D printing technology, has announced the next step towards supporting multiplanetary spaceflight: a fully reusable, medium lift launch vehicle named Terran R.

The company's second launch vehicle, succeeding the Terran 1 rocket to debut later this year, will have more payload capacity than the partially reusable SpaceX Falcon 9, and is only the second fully reusable commercial launch vehicle to be revealed publicly after SpaceX's Starship.

The two stage Terran R rocket will be 216 feet (65.8 meters) tall and 16 feet (4.9 meters) in diameter. The second stage features aerodynamic surfaces which will enable recovery and reuse, in addition to a reusable 5 meter diameter payload fairing. Terran R will be capable of delivering over 20,000 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit in its reusable configuration, beating Falcon 9's 15,600 kilograms with drone ship recovery.

Just like Terran 1, Relativity's small lift vehicle offering 1,250 kilograms to Low Earth Orbit, the components for Terran R will be 3D printed. Relativity Space aims to reduce cost and improve reliability by designing 3D printed vehicles with a low part count.

Previously: Relativity Space Leases Land at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi
Aerospace Startup Making 3D-Printed Rockets Now Has a Launch Site at America's Busiest Spaceport
Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat


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SpaceX's First Dedicated Starlink Launch Set for May; Amazon Hired SpaceX Execs for Project Kuiper 7 comments

SpaceX's first batch of operational Starlink satellites will launch no earlier than May 2019:

SpaceX has announced a launch target of May 2019 for the first batch of operational Starlink satellites in a sign that the proposed internet satellite constellation has reached a major milestone, effectively transitioning from pure research and development to serious manufacturing.

R&D will continue as SpaceX Starlink engineers work to implement the true final design of the first several hundred or thousand spacecraft, but a significant amount of the team's work will now be centered on producing as many Starlink satellites as possible, as quickly as possible. With anywhere from 4400 to nearly 12,000 satellites needed to complete the three major proposed phases of Starlink, SpaceX will have to build and launch more than 2200 satellites in the next five years, averaging 44 high-performance, low-cost spacecraft built and launched every month for the next 60 months.

[...] According to SpaceX filings with the FCC, the first group of operational satellites – potentially anywhere from 75 to 1000 or more – will rely on just one band ("Ku") for communications instead of the nominal two ("Ku" and "Ka"), a change that SpaceX says will significantly simplify the first spacecraft. By simplifying them, SpaceX believes it can expedite Starlink's initial deployment without losing a great deal of performance or interfering with constellations from competitors like OneWeb.

Amazon's planned 3,236-satellite broadband constellation, Project Kuiper, is being developed by former SpaceX employees:

Amazon's satellite internet plan is increasingly looking like the one Elon Musk has at SpaceX, with thousands of spacecraft that are compact in size. Among the reasons for the similarities, people tell CNBC, is that Jeff Bezos has hired some of Musk's previous senior management.

Former SpaceX vice president of satellites Rajeev Badyal and a couple members of his team are now leading Amazon's Project Kuiper, people familiar with the situation told CNBC.

[...] Badyal previously ran the "Starlink" division at SpaceX, which launched its first two test satellites last year. [...] Musk fired Badyal in June, one of the people said, confirming reports last year that the SpaceX CEO had become frustrated with the pace of Starlink's development. That was about four months after the launch of the first two Starlink test satellites. According to FCC documents, Starlink will become operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed.

Previously: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit
SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits

Related: Relativity Space Selected to Launch Satellites for Telesat


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