McLean company to send six satellites into orbit
Iridium Communications Inc. contracted by Los Angeles-based Relativity Space
Los Angeles-based aerospace manufacturer Relativity Space announced Wednesday that McLean-based Iridium Communications Inc. has signed a contract to deliver up to six of Irdium’s satellites into orbit. Iridium currently operates a network of 66 satellites used for mobile voice and data communications.
A contract amount was not disclosed.
The launches will take place on an as-needed basis, using Relativity’s 3D-printed launch vehicle Terran 1. Launches won’t occur before 2023, according to a Relativity statement.
“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,” Iridium CEO Matt Desch said in a statement. “Relativity’s Terran 1 fits our launch needs to LEO [low Earth oribit] 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 also announced Wednesday a right-of-entry agreement with the U.S. Air Force, 30th Space Wing, to develop rocket launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County, California. The launch facilities are needed to support flights of the Iridium satellite constellation.
“The 30th Space Wing takes great pride in supporting the next generation of leaders in space,” Col. Anthony J. Mastalir, 30th Space Wing commander, Vandenberg Air Force Base, said in a statement. “We are impressed by Relativity’s innovative approach to reinventing aerospace manufacturing via 3D metal printing and robotics paired with an executive team of seasoned aerospace leaders.”
An agreement amount was not disclosed.
“Iridium offers critical communications over the planet’s entire surface, and we are very proud to be their launch partner that supports this capability,” Relativity CEO and co-founder Tim Ellis said in a statement. “As the first 3D-printed launch vehicle, Terran 1 offers uniquely disruptive flexibility, cost and performance advantages, especially for medium-payload missions that need dedicated launches.”
Founded in 2016, Relativity is backed by investors including Mark Cuban, Bond, Tribe Capital, Playground Global, Y Combinator and Social Capital. Iridium was founded in 2006 and is used by the U.S. Department of Defense for global communication capabilities.