Relativity Space has signed a 20-year deal with NASA [arstechnica.com] 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 [qz.com].