Relativity and Intelsat Join Up for Terran R Launch14th Oct 2023
Intelsat and Relativity Space have recently entered into a multi-year and multi-launch agreement to launch Intelsat satellites using Relativity’s Terran R. Terran R is a 3-D printed reusable launch rocket that is all set to debut by 2026.
The specifics of this collaboration, including launch frequencies and financials, are yet to be revealed, which will clarify the scope of the venture. Relativity Space currently reports a backlog of over $1.8 billion from nine stakeholders, up from $1.65 billion since April 2023. Luc Froeliger, Senior VP of Space Systems at Intelsat, praised Relativity’s unique design and production operations but did not give any more information on why the deal was brokered.
Supply and Demand Challenge for Launch
The decision to secure multiple launches now for a vehicle that is years away from its first mission comes from the increasing demand for launches by various companies. There is a limited supply of reliable launch rockets in the industry, and the demand for them is increasing at a quick pace. Terran R could be one of the answers to this gap between supply and demand.
In a strategic move earlier this year, Relativity decided to retire its Terran 1 launch rocket after deciding that the most promising opportunities lie in the heavy end of the industry. This area is where the 270-foot tall Terran R could excel as it is designed to accommodate payloads of up to 5,500 kilograms to space.
CEO Tim Ellis and Senior VP Josh Brost of Relativity have both pressed for a more commercially competitive launch vehicle after realizing the gaps in the market. The Terran 1 project was discontinued only after one launch, but the knowledge gained from the project is now effectively being applied to the development of Terran R.
Terran R’s Prospects
The combination of Relativity and Intelsat technology is not a one-way street. Relativity’s hybrid manufacturing methods and 3D printing in its processes aims to successfully bring Terran R to the market. Relativity is on track to conclude a preliminary design review of Terran R by the year-end or at the start of the next year. They have recently achieved a milestone with their 500th engine test, which shows steady progress on the project. Relativity Space is also expanding facilities for Terran R launches, including a factory in Long Beach that is expected to produce 45 rockets annually.
Terran 1’s space entry was a big step despite all the challenges faced by the team behind it. There are also reports of problems with Terran R, as early clues suggest a valve problem, and the FAA is working with Relativity to understand the details of a glitch in the second-stage engine. All of this information, at this point, is crucial for Terran R’s success.