An artist's rendition of a Terran R rocket launching to orbit. Relativity Space
3D-printing specialist Relativity Space raised $650 million to step up work on a fully reusable rocket that will attempt to challenge Elon Musk's SpaceX in less than three years, the company announced on Tuesday.
The money will be used "to accelerate some of the production ramp rate and get to a higher launch cadence as quickly as we can, because the demand is certainly there for it," Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis told CNBC.
Relativity's new capital will be focused on its Terran R rocket, a launch vehicle that would be similar in size and power to SpaceX's workhorse Falcon 9 rocket.
Terran R will carry 20 times more to orbit than Relativity's Terran 1 rocket, the latter of which the company is on track to launch for the first time by the end of this year. Additionally, Ellis said Terran 1's backlog of customer orders makes it "the most pre-sold rocket in history before launch."
The raise, which Ellis described as "war chest doubled," was led by Fidelity and comes eight months after Relativity brought in $500 million in a round led by Tiger Global . The $650 million in equity added BlackRock, Centricus, Coatue and Soroban Capital as new Relativity investors, with a host of existing investors – including Fidelity, Tiger, Baillie Gifford, K5 Global, Tribe Capital, XN, Brad Buss, Mark Cuban, Jared Leto and Spencer Rascoff – building on prior stakes.
Relativity has now raised $1.34 billion in capital since its founding in 2015, with its valuation climbing to $4.2 billion from $2.3 billion in November. Its headcount has grown to 400 people, with Ellis saying the company plans to "add several more hundred this year."
"We've signed up to create a lot of value, certainly remaining the second most highly valued space company in the world," Ellis said, as SpaceX commands an industry-leading $74 billion valuation .