CNBC Disruptor 50

36. Relativity Space

Founders: Tim Ellis (CEO)
Launched: 2015
Headquarters: Long Beach, California
Funding:
$1.3 billion
Valuation: $4.2 billion
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, digital twins, machine learning, robotics
Industry:
Aerospace, Transportation
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 1 (No. 23 in 2021)

Persephone Kavallines

Relativity Space is continuing its path to building fully reusable next-generation rockets, aiming to power the push to Mars and beyond – and compete with Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Using large 3-D printers and an in-house metal-making process that builds 95% of the parts that go into its rockets, the Long Beach, California-based company believes its approach makes it less complex and faster to build, or modify, compared to traditional rocket engineering and manufacturing. The goal for the company is to turn raw materials into a deployable rocket in under 60 days.

Relativity Space is expected to launch the first flight of its Terran 1 rocket this year, a one-time use vehicle that would compete with other mid-sized rockets made by companies like ABL Space or Firefly Aerospace. Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis has previously said the Terran 1 rocket is "the most pre-sold rocket in history before launch."

The company is also focused on its reusable Terran R rocket, which would be similar in size and power to Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Relativity Space raised $650 million in June 2021 to step up its work on the Terran R rocket, a round led by Fidelity which also included BlackRock, Centricus, Coatue, and Soroban Capital as new investors. Existing investors, such as Tiger Global, Baillie Gifford, K5 Global, Mark Cuban, and actor Jared Leto, also built on their prior stakes.

The company announced plans in June 2021 to build a second rocket factory in Long Beach, a more than 1-million-square-foot facility on the site of a former Boeing facility where it will move its headquarters and focus work around Terran R, which it expects to launch as early as 2024.

To date, the company has raised $1.34 billion since its 2015 founding, with its valuation growing to more than $4.2 billion. Ellis told CNBC at the time of the Jun 2021 funding announcement that he believes the company doesn't yet need to go public and can tap "almost limitless capital" in the private markets.

Still, with a goal not dissimilar to Musk, Ellis and the company remain focused on the potential of getting mankind to Mars and potentially beyond.

"At the end of the day, launching to orbit is what the business is all about. Of course, these are all great signals and momentum to get there but infrastructure alone isn't winning, but it's a huge enabler," Ellis told CNBC.

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