Terry Wohlers, president of additive manufacturing consulting firm Wohlers Associates Inc., said most aerospace companies recognize that 3D printing represents a “Big opportunity” to refine the design of launch vehicles and propulsion systems. Ellis said the company plans to undertake a test flight of its Terran 1 rocket next year, with commercial launches planned for 2022.Even though the company’s spacecraft are as yet unproven, Relativity already has customers. Last month, the company signed an agreement with Lockheed Martin Corp. to build and launch a rocket as part of an upcoming experimental mission conducted on behalf of NASA.Meanwhile, satellite communications companies Telesat Holdings Inc. and Iridium Communications Inc. have both contracted with the company to deliver payloads in future launches. A spokesperson for Iridium said the company has “Confidence in ability to become a successful provider in the midsize launch market” and had picked the company over more proven rocket manufacturers because Relativity offered a more cost-effective option for deployment of a single satellite. Ellis said payload delivery aboard the company’s rockets, which have enough capacity to fit large satellites, will cost customers around $12 million per launch. Relativity’s latest funding round puts the company’s post-money valuation at $2.3 billion, according to PitchBook Data Inc.That’s an “Extraordinarily high” valuation for a rocket company that hasn’t yet sent a vehicle into space, said Laura Forczyk, owner of space consulting firm Astralytical. “If Relativity is successful in proving they can launch rockets less expensively, then you’re going to see a lot of competition not only from big rocket companies but from the small launchers as well,” Forczyk said.
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