Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

 
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

 
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

 
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

 
Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

Relativity raises $650 million in investment capital to build bigger rocket

Capitalism in space: The rocket startup Relativity today announced that it has raised $650 million in investment capital for building a much larger version of its Terran rocket, one designed not only to be completely reusable, but to be able to launch more payload than SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

The company says the funding, which comes barely half a year after it raised a $500 million Series D round, will allow the company to accelerate development of the Terran R, a much larger rocket than the Terran 1 it is currently building and one that is intended to be fully reusable. Relativity is targeting a first launch of Terran R in 2024.

In an interview, Tim Ellis, chief executive of Relativity, said the plans for Terran R date back to the company’s founding in the Y Combinator business accelerator. “It’s actually been in the plans since five years ago, when I founded the company. We just haven’t talked about it yet,” he said. “But even in Y Combinator, we were talking about building a fully reusable rocket that was larger than Falcon 9.”

…Another key element of Terran R is Relativity’s intent to make the vehicle fully reusable, including its upper stage and payload fairing. “There won’t be a part that’s not reusable on the vehicle,” Ellis said, crediting that to the company’s significant investment in 3D-printing technologies.

It is not clear exactly how they will get this new rocket’s upper stage to return to Earth unscathed. SpaceX considered trying it with the Falcon 9 upper stage and decided it was not worth the cost. If Relativity succeeds however they will have a rocket that can beat SpaceX in price.

And about time. Right now none of the commercial rocket companies aiming to compete directly with SpaceX — ULA, Arianespace, Blue Origin — seem willing to really compete. They are either not working to build reusable rockets or have been doing so at a pace that is much too slow. Instead, they all seem to think that they can rely on big government contracts to stay afloat.

Not only is having no competition unhealthy in the long run for SpaceX, it is very bad for the customers who are looking for transportation into orbit. For a new company like Relativity to come forward with new ideas, new technology, and (most important) lots of cash to directly challenge SpaceX is a welcome development. Now they need to deliver.

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5 comments

  • Kyle

    On Twitter a couple of days ago Eric Berger hinted at an unnamed company who could challenge Spacex. Then again how many times have we seen investors who are too late to play throw money at anything that sticks.

  • Ray Van Dune

    It will be interesting to see how they design the second stage. The ACES stage seems to be very high performance and functionality, but without recoverability. The SpaceX second stage is beer-budget throw-away. What cost-function point are they going to try to hit between those two?

    A recoverable second stage means a pricier overall vehicle for the lift capacity, but the SpaceX F9 probably will just keep building a stronger reputation. It has staked out a commanding position that requires a competitor either do something it can’t do, or do it a whole lot cheaper! What might that former thing that be?

    The customer doesn’t care if you bring back your stage 2. They care where it can put my payload at what price, with high confidence of success.

  • Matt in AZ

    When Terran R is ready for customers, Falcon 9 may already be retired, with a Starship variant replacing it. Still, I’m glad someone is stepping up to the challenge.

  • Jeff Wright

    People like the Centaurs though. The illustration looks nice…

  • Edward

    Matt in AZ wrote: “When Terran R is ready for customers, Falcon 9 may already be retired, with a Starship variant replacing it.

    I’m not sure that Falcon 9 will be completely retired for quite some time. Dragon is better suited than Starship to transport people and supplies to the kinds of space stations that are currently planned. Starship’s mass and mass moment of inertia overwhelm those of the planned space stations and would make attitude control more difficult than the Dragons would.

    On the other hand, in order for the company to focus on its other goals, SpaceX may choose to leave such transportation to Cygnus, Dream Chaser, Starliner, and any other craft that come online in the next decade or so.

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