Relativity Space Raises $650M for Its Recyclable Rocket

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Relativity Space Raises $650M for Its Recyclable Rocket

Aerospace upstart Relativity Space and its CEO Tim Ellis are trying to take on SpaceX in the recyclable rocket race. The company has landed a new funding round to produce a fully reusable rocket that could launch within three years.


Long Beach-based Relativity raised a $650 Series E round June 8 to fund the development and production of its Terran R rocket, a reusable craft that will be 95% 3D-printed — including its engines — and launch by 2024, according to CEO Tim Ellis.

The new round was led by existing investors Fidelity Management & Research. WIth this round, Relativity Space has raised roughly $1.9 billion since its 2015 launch.

Ellis told dot.LA that the funding round is pivotal in helping Relativity reach its lofty goals.

"Ever since Relativity's early days in Y Combinator, we've planned to manufacture a large reusable rocket along with Terran 1 and now we're one step closer to fulfilling that vision," he said in an email.

Ellis added that the company has already sold the first multiple launch contract for Terran R, even though the rocket isn't finished yet and said "our team is excited by the progress this new funding will enable in its development."

"Over the last year, we found ourselves being asked by the market to accelerate development of our larger launch vehicle, so we knew it was time to double down on our existing plans and scale the Terran R program even faster and build production capabilities at scale sooner," said in an earlier statement.

SpaceX has been reusing rockets -- or parts of them -- since 2010. The company's Falcon 9 rocket is recyclable and has been in use since 2012, and SpaceX first successfully re-lit used rocket boosters during a test the year after. The Falcon Heavy and Starship crafts developed by SpaceX also use reusable components.

Relativity's renderings of the Terran R show a craft that is 216 feet tall and looks like something straight out of "Star Trek." The sleek, aerodynamic craft is 16 feet in diameter and capable of sending over 44,000 pounds into low Earth orbit.

The craft has a lot of firepower -- seven identical 3D-printed engines that will give the rocket over 300,000 pounds of upward thrust each.

The Terran R is the reusable counterpart to Relativity's Terran 1 rocket, which has already secured Department of Defense contracts to launch satellites by June of next year. Six private companies have signed on to launch on the rocket so far, including Iridium, Telesat, Spaceflight, mu Space, Momentus, and TriSept.

"We're focusing our energy towards the first launch of Terran 1, the world's first completely 3D printed rocket, which is the most pre-sold rocket in history and building Terran R," Ellis told dot.LA.

Relativity said that over 85% of the Terran 1 rocket is printed and is on track for a test launch this year from the company's site at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Terran R rocket will eventually launch from the same complex.

Besides being recyclable, the biggest difference between the Terran R and the Terran 1 is that the R is capable of holding a payload 20 times bigger.

If the Terran R craft lands successfully and all parts are reusable, it could be a game-changer not only for launch contractors such as the DoD, but also other rocket manufacturing companies.

Ellis claims the company has "radically simplified" its supply chain and can build a rocket in less than two months with "over 100 times fewer parts" than a conventional rocket build.

Automated 3D printing rockets cost a fraction of what a typical rocket production line would, and SpaceX has already proven that reusable rocket parts are both feasible and cheap. With a successful model for reusable spaceflight, Relativity could gear itself up for a flurry of interested launch partners looking to reach orbit for a nominal price.

Other existing investors returned to back Relativity again, including U.K.-based asset manager Baillie Gifford, Tiger Global Capital, K5 Global, Tribe Capital, hedge fund XN, actor Jared Leto and "Shark Tank" star and entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

Spencer Rascoff, a co-founder and investor in dot.LA, contributed to Relativity Space's Series E through his L.A.-based investment firm 75 and Sunny, as well as in prior funding rounds.

New investors including Brad Buss, private equity firm Centricus and New York City-based hedge fund Coatue also joined the round.

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout with comments from Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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