- Relativity Space retires 3D-printed Terran 1 to focus on heavy-lift rocket Terran R
- Launch supply shortage opens the door for new contenders in the rocket industry
- Long-term vision: 3D-printing tech to build an industrial base on Mars
Just last week, Starship, the most potent rocket ever built, soared into the sky from the Texas coast only to go kablooey four minutes into its flight. Though it didn't make it to space, this monstrous rocket's explosive journey illuminated the industry's newest trend: bigger, badder rockets.
SpaceX's colossal, fully reusable mega system may be in a league of its own, but other ambitious startups are also gearing up to satisfy the insatiable demand for more powerful and spacious rockets. Enter Relativity Space, a $4 billion CNBC Disruptor 50 company that's become the face of this rocket race. They're already retiring their innovative 3D-printed Terran 1 to focus on a new heavy-lifter called Terran R, even though the former just had its maiden voyage last month.
According to Tim Ellis, Relativity Space's CEO, there's a massive launch supply shortage until at least 2027. While SpaceX could potentially fill that gap, there's a catch—SpaceX's Starlink satellite constellation project means they'll also be competing against their clients. So, Ellis believes it's time to give Elon Musk's space behemoth some healthy competition.
But Relativity isn't the only company gunning for bigger rockets. Blue Origin's New Glenn, United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur, and Rocket Lab's Neutron are all vying for a spot in the heavyweight rocket ring. Relativity's Terran R, though not quite Starship-sized, is designed to go head-to-head with SpaceX's Falcon 9. With a $1.65 billion backlog and billions more in active deals, the future looks bright for this rocket underdog.
Relativity Space's long-term vision involves constructing an industrial base on Mars using 3D-printing tech. Ellis imagines a lightweight, versatile factory requiring minimal human involvement. And while it may seem like a lofty goal, he's determined to give it an honest shot.
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