Relativity Space, the most recent addition to Long Beach’s reemerging aerospace sector, was awarded its first U.S. Department of Defense contract, the company announced this week.
The contract is through the department’s Defense Innovation Unit and is part of the Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise, a follow-up effort of a rapid launch initiative used to identify low-cost commercial systems.
“The Defense Innovation Unit is a group whose innovative approach aligns with the work we are doing at Relativity to revolutionize the future of aerospace,” co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said in a statement.
Relativity’s Terran 1 is the world’s first fully 3-D-printed rocket and is made using a printer, dubbed Stargate, and metal alloy developed by the company. Certain rocket components have been made using 3-D printing for years but Relativity is the first to take it a step further.
The defense unit’s work focuses on strengthening national defense through the adoption of commercial technology, according to a press release. The unit was seeking launch systems capable of delivering payloads between 450 and 1,200 kilograms to low-Earth orbit.
The Terran 1 can deliver payloads up to 1,250 kilograms.
The defense contract is the ninth launch customer announcement for the firm, which is still in the development phase for the Terran 1. Engine testing is underway at the firm’s Cape Canaveral launch site and the first demonstration mission is expected later this year.
Other contracts include two with NASA and another with global security and aerospace company Lockheed Martin.
The company was founded in 2015 by Ellis and Jordan Noone in Los Angeles. The firm relocated to Long Beach in summer 2020 and since then has nearly tripled its workforce to around 300, Caryn Schenewerk, the company’s vice president of regulatory and government affairs, told the Business Journal last month. Relativity is working with city staff to identify space to accommodate further growth, she added.