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Relativity Space to operate major rocket engine test facilities at NASA
by Staff Writers
Bay St. Louis MS (SPX) Oct 19, 2022

Relativity Space expands presence at NASA Stennis Space Center, leveraging over 150 acres for development of new rocket stage and engine testing facilities. (Photo: Business Wire)

Relativity Space, the first company to 3D print rockets and build the largest metal 3D printers in the world, has detailed its plans to operate one of the largest rocket engine test facilities in the United States. Through an agreement with NASA, Relativity is significantly expanding its facilities and infrastructure at NASA's historic Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Mississippi.

The new facilities will support testing of Relativity's entirely 3D printed Aeon R engines for its fully reusable 3D printed rocket, Terran R. Relativity will utilize over 150 additional acres within the Stennis Test Complex, with testing infrastructure for its Aeon R engines being built from the ground up on previously unutilized land north of the A and E Test Complexes. Relativity has begun ground clearing work for several new engine test stands, a full scale second stage stand, office buildings, and a vehicle hangar.

The company is already underway testing Aeon R components across Relativity's E2 test complex, with plans to build the first Aeon R engine and turbopump assembly and begin thrust chamber assembly tests for its Aeon R engines in the coming months at a leased E1 test cell. Full Aeon R engine tests are tracking to occur in late 2023 at Relativity's newly announced facility expansions.

Relativity currently occupies several operational facilities at Stennis, which include four exclusive-use test stands in the E4 area used for Terran 1 stage testing and Aeon 1 engine testing, two exclusive-use stands in the E2 area used for Aeon 1 engine and Aeon R component tests, and one cell on the E1 test stand available through a Reimbursable Space Act Agreement for Aeon R engine tests.

Additionally, Relativity has expanded into several buildings that house its rapidly growing team and test control operations. These facilities have enabled more than 2,000 engine tests, multiple successful mission duty cycles, and a fully-integrated stage testing of a 3D printed orbital flight article - which is not only a first for Relativity but for the entire aerospace manufacturing industry.

Relativity's partnership with NASA advances innovation, economic development, and job growth in the Gulf Coast, while also progressing the company's leadership in American aerospace development. Relativity will continue to invest in regional workforce development programs, university and education outreach, and community engagement initiatives.

"We're looking forward to writing some new history at Stennis through an incredibly large new expansion of development and test capabilities. We're honored to partner with NASA and are grateful for their support. We look forward to growing our Stennis-based team, who will be pivotal in our success of meeting many more first-ever milestones as we scale our Terran R program." - Relativity Space Cofounder and CEO Tim Ellis

"The access to infrastructure in Mississippi is unparalleled. I look forward to working with NASA as the historic Stennis Space Center continues to evolve to support commercial space test programs and to attract and hire top talent as we build the future of aerospace manufacturing. We know the history of excellence at Stennis and take great pride in being able to repurpose existing infrastructure that has withstood the test of time. But we will also build brand new test stands in a place so central and vital to American aerospace innovation." - Relativity Space Vice President of Test and Launch Don Kaderbek

"We welcome the growth of this valued partnership with Relativity Space," Stennis Space Center Director Dr. Rick Gilbrech said. "NASA is committed to working with commercial companies to help them achieve their space goals, and Stennis is a proven leader in enabling such partnerships. Since their arrival in the spring of 2018, Relativity Space has continued to grow as a respected member of the Stennis federal city. We look forward to their continued development as an aerospace manufacturing and launch company." - Stennis Space Center Director Dr. Rick Gilbrech

"This expansion is proof that Mississippi's future as an aerospace hub is bright. I congratulate Relativity Space on their continued growth and their effort to bring quality jobs to our state. American leadership in space starts in Mississippi, and I expect many great things to come." - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

"Mississippi's Stennis Space Center precedes its reputation for excellence in rocket engine testing, and Relativity's growing presence will only further that reputation. I look forward to seeing what new aerospace innovations are brought about from this exciting expansion and partnership, as well as what new talent it will attract." - U.S. Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.)

As a two-stage rocket with a 5-meter payload fairing, Terran R will be entirely reusable and capable of launching 20,000 kg to low Earth orbit (LEO). Terran R is made possible through the company's proprietary 3D printing process, which utilizes software-driven manufacturing, proprietary, high-performance next generation materials, and unique design geometries that are not possible to achieve in traditional manufacturing. Relativity's Stargate printers, the largest in the world, can produce Terran R as well as Terran 1.

Combined with the ability to launch 20x more payload than Terran 1, Terran R provides both government and commercial customers affordable access to space, in LEO and beyond. With satellite technology advancements, demand for bandwidth soaring, and satellite constellations representing the largest part of the growing market, Terran R was accelerated to accommodate the growing demand for large constellation launch services, and the company's growing pipeline of commercial interest. As a testament to its commercial viability, Relativity has signed five customer launch contracts for Terran R to date, including a multi-launch agreement with OneWeb and its first commercial mission to Mars with Impulse Space.

Terran R will be outfitted with 3D-printed Aeon R engines capable of 250,000 lb. thrust each, while its upper stage houses one Aeon Vac engine. Aeon R and Aeon Vac are 3D-printed, enhancing mission reliability by reducing part count in engine combustion chambers, igniters, turbopumps, reaction control thrusters, and vehicle pressurization systems. All Aeon engines use propellants of the future, liquid oxygen and liquid natural gas, which are not only the best for rocket propulsion, but also the easiest to eventually make on Mars.

Relativity is building humanity's multiplanetary future. We invented a new approach to design, print, and fly our own rockets, starting with the world's first 3D-printed rocket, Terran 1, and Terran R, a larger, fully reusable, 3D-printed launch vehicle.

As a vertically integrated technology platform, Relativity is at the forefront of an inevitable shift toward software-defined manufacturing. By fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics, we are pioneering the factory of the future. Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, Relativity offers a radically simplified supply chain, building a rocket with 100x fewer parts in less than 60 days.

We believe in a future where interplanetary life fundamentally expands the possibilities for human experience. Our long-term vision is to upgrade humanity's industrial base on Earth and on Mars.

Relativity believes in a future where interplanetary life fundamentally expands the possibilities for human experience, with the long-term vision of upgrading humanity's industrial base on Earth and on Mars.

The company's expansion at Stennis builds on its continued momentum, including the reveal of Terran R design and plans, the closing of its $650M Series E fundraise, as well as securing a new 1M+ sq. ft. headquarters - one of the largest headquarters in the private space industry. Relativity now employs 975+ people across its Long Beach, Vandenberg, Seattle, Washington D.C., Stennis, and Cape Canaveral locations.

With continued high demand for its Terran 1 launch vehicle, which continues to be one of the most presold rockets in history prior to launch, Relativity has secured contracts from both private and government customers, including a recent award for NASA's Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) mission, in addition to its Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract with NASA, a launch contract with U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), facilitated by the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), as well as an on-demand satellite launch contract with Iridium.

Related Links
Relativity Space
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

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