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Relativity Space extends launch capabilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and more

Relativity Space, a manufacturer of 3D printed launch rockets in the commercial space industry, has made a series of announcements this week that will see its business evolve and grow. The first is that the company has extended its launch capabilities with the United States Air Force at the Vandenberg Air Force Base. In addition, the California-based company has announced that Iridium Communications, Inc. has signed a launch contract to deliver satellites into orbit. Finally, Relativity Space has appointed a new Chief Financial Officer, Muhammad Shahzad.

Launch activities on both coasts

Taking a closer look at its collaboration with the U.S. Air Force, Relativity has signed a Right of Entry (RoE) Agreement with the Air Force’s 30th Space Wing to pursue the development of rocket launch facilities at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The RoE enables Relativity and the 30th Space Wing to determine the viability of conducting launch operations at the base, at a location that currently consists of Building 330 and adjacent land.

The announcement marks a significant expansion for the company’s launch capabilities, which were previously focused on the East Coast. Now, customers will have access to a range of orbital inclinations, including polar and Sun Synchronous orbits (SSO), as well as LEO, MEO, GEO and low inclination orbits at the company’s Cape Canaveral LC-16 launch site.

Relativity Vandenberg Base

“We’re honored to begin this partnership with the 30th Space Wing and join the exclusive group of private space companies able to conduct launches at Vandenberg,” said Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity. “The West Coast launch facilities allow Relativity to provide affordable access to polar and sun sync orbits that are critical for both government and commercial customers. The geographic southerly position of B-330 at Vandenberg offers schedule certainty and increased launch frequency that will be advantageous to our Terran 1 customers.”

Following the assessment, and if the Vandenberg Air Force Base is approved, the B-330 launch site at the base will be capable of supporting Relativity’s Terran 1 rocket, the first and only entirely 3D printed launch rocket.

Iridium signs launch contract

The second news item about Relativity is that it has signed a launch contract with Iridium Communications Inc., a company that operates a fleet of active communications satellites. The contract includes flexible timing for up to six dedicated launches to deploy Iridium’s ground spare satellites to low Earth orbit. The contracted launches will be scheduled on an “as-needed basis” and are planned to start in 2023 at the earliest. The launches will rely on the Terran 1 3D printed launch vehicle.

Iridium’s satellite constellation consists of 66 operational satellites and nine in-orbit spares. The company also has six ground spare satellites, which are now in storage, ready to be deployed if needed. If and when the time comes to launch a ground spare satellite into LEO, Relativity will use its Terran 1 rocket for the mission. The nature of Relativity’s agile rocket production will enable these ground spare deployments to be planned on the fly, so to speak, taking just months to prepare.

“The upgraded Iridium satellite constellation is operating incredibly well, but it’s prudent to have a cost-effective launch option available for future spare delivery,” commented Matt Desch CEO of Iridium.  “Relativity’s Terran 1 fits our launch needs to LEO well from both a price, responsiveness and capability perspective. And we know based on our previous experience that there are great benefits to engaging with a provider early on during development of the launch vehicle and it evolving around our particular needs.”

Relativity Vandenberg Base
Relativity’s Stargate 3D printing system for rocket manufacturing

Relativity welcomes new CFO

Last but not least, Relativity has announced the appointment of a new Chief Financial Officer, Muhammad Shahzad, who brings to the role 15 years of finance and capital markets experience as well as a background in financial planning, operations, management and strategy and the technology industry. Prior to joining Relativity, Shahzad served as CFO of The Honest Company.

“Mo’s deep experience in financial operations and investment banking, along with his background in growth-stage startups and strategy consulting, make him a unique fit for Relativity as we drive to enter commercial launch service next year,” said Ellis. “I was impressed with his incredibly high EQ and IQ and sheer speed of learning about our business. Mo brings a rigorous yet uniquely fresh approach to the CFO role that will add to the diverse leadership team we are building at Relativity.”

At Relativity, Shahzad will be a key member of the executive leadership team, and be responsible for financial planning and analysis, capital allocation and fundraising, treasury, tax, accounting and driving the growth of the business.

“For quite some time now I have admired Relativity and its mission to accelerate the future of humanity in space, and I’m thrilled and humbled to be joining such a talented team,” said the new CFO. “Relativity is developing the first and only aerospace factory to integrate machine learning, software, and robotics with metal 3D printing technology to build and launch rockets in days instead of years. I’m excited to help the company build on all the recent momentum with leading global satellite operators, other commercial customers, and various government branches.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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