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Capitalism in space: The new startup rocket company Relativity announced yesterday the signing of its third launch contract with Spaceflight, a company that until now has mostly specialized in arranging secondary payloads on big rockets for smallsat companies.
The launch services agreement between the two companies includes an order for one launch of Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket in the third quarter of 2021, with an option for an unspecified number of additional launches. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although Relativity has publicized a list price of $10 million for the rocket.
Spaceflight will use those launches for dedicated rideshare missions, aggregating a set of small satellites to fly on the rocket.
The previous two contracts were with the long-established satellite communications company Telesat and a newer satellite company from Thailand called mu Space.
Relativity’s ability to get three launch contracts for a rocket that has not yet flown, no less tested, is somewhat puzzling. There are other companies, Rocket Lab, Vector, Firefly, and Virgin Orbit, that are either operational or have already tested prototype rockets or engines.
I suspect all the contracts have easy escape clauses, and are conditional depending on the company’s successful test program. I also suspect that the deals gave significant price breaks to all three companies for their willingness to sign under these circumstances.