An aerial view of the company’s proposed facility near Long Beach Airport, California.
3D printing specialist Relativity Space is building a second factory in Long Beach, California, on the site of a former Boeing factory, where the company will relocate its headquarters and focus on building fully reusable missiles.
“This will really allow us to expand our ambitions and of course build and develop and fly Terran R,” Relativity CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC.
The company, which has raised nearly $ 1.2 billion in capital over the past eight months, expects to begin construction on the new facility this summer and move in in January 2022. Spanning more than 1 million square feet, the former Boeing C-17 aircraft manufacturing facility “is an absolutely monstrous building,” said Ellis.
“As an aerospace facility historically, this means that there are no pillars at all in the center of the factory, like a cantilevered ceiling. It has huge overhead cranes that can lift heavy things, so it’s already come with a lot of parts that make it a really fantastic aerospace factory, “said Ellis.
“It has the extent to which we can continue to grow in the next few years, but also in the next few decades,” he added.
The new building complements Relativity’s current 120,000-square-foot headquarters, which was also built in Long Beach and moved into last year. The new headquarters will accommodate more than 2,000 employees, a metal laboratory, a machine shop, “dozen” of the company’s 3D printer bays and a mission control center.
A closer look at a rendering of the company’s new factory near Long Beach Airport in California.
The company focuses on using 3D printing to build rockets, a process that Relativity says requires thousands of fewer parts and can be completed in less than 60 days thanks to a simplified supply chain.
Relativity is already starting to build some early parts of its Terran-R missile and could build the entire missile in its existing location. But the larger building will have “over 100 times more capacity” for printing than Relativity’s current building, Ellis said, and enough space to make “too many” rockets per year.
The new building has more space than Relativity needs to produce Terran R, but Ellis said that is the only clue he can give as to the company’s “other plans” for the facility.
Terran 1 on course
An artist rendering of Relativity’s Terran-1 missile on the Cape Canaverals LC-16 launch pad in Florida.
Relativity is developing two rockets, Terran 1 and Terran R, with the former being a disposable vehicle that competes with the mid-size rockets from companies like ABL Space or Firefly Aerospace, and the latter a fully reusable vehicle that would compete with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets. Ellis said his company is now “assembling the first stage of the actual orbital missile” for Terran 1’s first launch later this year.
“We’re entering the final engine qualification campaign for Terran 1,” said Ellis. “The launch site of Terran 1 [in Florida] is also about to be completed … so internally there is still a lot of work to be done in order to be launched on the market at the end of this year. “
The company’s existing headquarters will continue to be used to manufacture Terran-1 missiles. Relativity now has more than 400 employees and expects to have more than 200 more by the end of this year.
A time-lapse from inside a 3D printed bay shows the manufacturing process for a Terran 1 second-stage air tank:
While Relativity’s rapid expansion and fundraising has made it one of the most valuable privately held companies in the space industry, valued at $ 4.2 billion, Ellis emphasized that these are milestones against its goal of launching its first rocket later this year , are secondary.
“Ultimately, the business is about going into orbit. Of course, these are all great signals and impulses to get there, but infrastructure alone is not winning, but it is a great enabler,” said Ellis.
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