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Artist's illustration of the Terran R rocket. Image: Relativity Space

Relativity Space has raised $650 million to help fund its plans to build a fully reusable, 3D-printed rocket.

Why it matters: Relativity is part of a growing number of launch companies looking to capitalize on governments and other companies hoping to send their wares to space in the coming years.

Details: The fully reusable rocket — named Terran R — is expected to be 216-feet tall and able to launch 44,000 pounds of cargo to low-Earth orbit, slightly less than a SpaceX Falcon 9's capacity.

  • The smaller Terran-1 rocket, the company's first, is expected to take flight from Cape Canaveral later this year and is about 85% printed, according to Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity Space.
  • "Right now for Terran 1, the print time is on the order of three to four months. It's getting faster, and it will certainly be faster by the second one, the third one and fourth one," Ellis said, adding the company plans to be able to print the Terran R in under 60 days.
  • Relativity Space's funding round was led by Fidelity Management & Research Company, with new investors including BlackRock, Centricus, Coatue and Soroban Capital.

Yes, but: The future market for this kind of launch service still isn't crystal clear.

  • Companies see huge demand for launch today, but as more rockets come online in the coming years, it could make it more difficult to stand out to customers in a market crowded with rides to space.

Go deeper: Companies race to design private space stations before ISS goes offline

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Sep 15, 2021 - Science

Inspiration4 launch: SpaceX to send 1st all-civilian crew into orbit

Photo: Inspiration4/John Kraus

The Inspiration4 crew is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday evening. The first all-civilian flight to orbit will act as a proof of concept for SpaceX and the broader private spaceflight industry, which wants to send many more people to space in the coming years and decades.

The latest: SpaceX has completed fueling the Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, streamed live via SpaceX, remains on schedule for liftoff at 8:02 p.m. ET.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Sep 2, 2021 - Science

Private companies are changing who gets to go to space

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Private missions to orbit like the all-civilian Inspiration4 launching later this month are opening access to space to people who historically haven't gone there.

Why it matters: Fewer than 600 people have flown to space, and most of them have been white men. But with the rise of commercial spaceflight that's expected to change.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Aug 31, 2021 - Science

A mission to space like no other

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The launch next month of the first all-civilian mission to orbit is an ambitious test for a burgeoning space industry's futuristic dream of sending many more ordinary people to space in the next few years.

Why it matters: Companies and nations envision millions of people living and working in space without having to become professional, government-backed astronauts. Those hopes are riding on SpaceX's next crewed mission, called Inspiration4.