The transformation of the long-vacant Boeing C-17 site—a 93-acre property west of Long Beach Airport that includes a 1.1 million-square-foot hangar—is well underway, with portions of the renovation project already completed and occupied by the latest tenant, rocket manufacturer and launch service provider Relativity Space.
Construction to turn the aging airplane manufacturing hangar into a combined office-rocket manufacturing headquarters for the firm began late last year, several months after Relativity’s announcement in June that it had signed a 16.5-year lease agreement with the property’s owner, Australian-based developer The Goodman Group.
The initial phase of construction, which included the office space, is complete, and the first teams have moved into their new home, according to Director of Infrastructure Jonathan Lund.
Relativity is still in the process of building out the factory space to full manufacturing capabilities, but the firm already has begun using its large, patented 3D printers to produce its rocket components.
“Over the course of the next year, we will continue building out the remainder of our manufacturing areas, and begin improvements to the exterior of the building,” Lund said in an email to the Business Journal.
While many manufacturers use 3D-printing technology to create various components for rockets, Relativity is the first to produce a fully 3D-printed spacecraft—from the hull to the engine. To accomplish this, the firm developed the world’s largest 3D printer, which it dubbed StarGate, and its own metal alloy.
The company’s debut flight vehicle, the Terran 1, is slated for its first launch later this year at Relativity’s Cape Canaveral complex. A date for the mission has not been set.
In January, Relativity completed the first full duration mission cycle test of its Aeon engine, which ran for 310 seconds—the longest test to date, Ryan said. The company completed structural testing of the Terran 1 in February, finalizing all full-scale structural testing of the launch vehicle.
Most recently, Relativity completed its first successful test of the vehicle’s second stage, which included a 60-second full duration hot fire test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
Three weeks before it announced its lease of the C-17 site, Relativity unveiled its plans for the first fully reusable, entirely 3D-printed rocket: the Terran R. The larger launch vehicle also will be manufactured in Long Beach, though it’s still in the development stage.
The Long Beach company also is in the development phase of a second launch complex at the Vandenberg Space Force Base just outside of Lompoc on the California coast.
The company’s Florida operation includes a launch pad, propellant farms and gas storage as well as an integration hangar and logistics area, payload processing facility and a launch control center. Last year, Relativity completed the installation of the propellant farms for liquified natural gas and oxygen storage. The firm also constructed its hangar while licensing through the Federal Aviation Administration continues, Lund said.
“Relativity is the first and only venture-backed company with a right of entry directly with the U.S. Air Force at historic Launch Complex 16,” Lund said.
Relativity was founded by Tim Ellis and Jordan Noone in a Seattle WeWork space in December 2015. The company relocated to Long Beach in 2020, taking up residence in a brand new 120,000-square-foot building in the Pacific Edge industrial park at East Burnett Street and Redondo Avenue.
The company will operate out of both that facility and the new headquarters even after construction is complete.
Since its move to Long Beach almost two years ago, Relativity’s workforce has grown exponentially from just over 100 employees to over 750, according to Lund.
“Our new headquarters has the capacity to ultimately support hundreds more,” Lund added.
Last year, the state awarded Relativity a large tax credit as part of California Competes, an income tax credit given to select businesses that are relocating to or expanding in the state. The $30 million tax credit requires Relativity to grow its workforce to nearly 1,100 and invest nearly $320 million by the end of the 2025 tax year.