Pathfinder #0009, ft. Relativity Space’s Tim Ellis

On today’s episode of Pathfinder, we’re joined by Tim Ellis, the CEO and cofounder of Relativity Space.

Tim was in his late twenties when he started Relativity with cofounder Jordan Noone six and a half years ago. Fast forward to today: Relativity’s 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket is at the pad in Cape Canaveral and an orbital launch is “weeks away,” Tim tells us. 

  • Relativity also recently said it has secured more than $1.2B+ worth of launch agreements for the forthcoming, fully reusable Terran R rocket.
  • Tim says more customer contract announcements are coming soon.
  • In fact, just since we recorded 12 days ago, Relativity announced a highly ambitious commercial Mars mission with Impulse Space.

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A sneak peek of the Pathfinder #0009 discussion

  • Tim pursued a non-linear path into aerospace at USC, where he was part of the first student group to launch a rocket to space and interned back-to-back-to-back at Blue Origin
  • Then, Tim and Jordan would go on to cold-email Mark Cuban, get accepted into Y Combinator, build prototypes while going through the accelerator, and successfully pitch their pre-revenue, pre-product startup to big funds. 
  • Relativity is scaling headcount quickly, from 100 employees before Covid to 850 today and 1,000+ soon. Production is also ramping up, with Relativity expanding into new digs and a 1M square foot facility in Long Beach, CA.
  • While the spotlight is on Terran 1, Tim Ellis says “our momentum towards Terran R is significant.”
  • We walk through the unique parts of Relativity’s rocket-making stack, from propulsion to reusability to additive manufacturing. 
  • 3D printing is “the holy grail of automation technologies for aerospace,” Tim opines. Relativity has a few hundreds employees working on 3D printing alone. Eventually, the company’s 3D printers may be useful in other industries, but that’s not as big of a strategic focus at the moment. 
  • We ask Tim how he’s navigating market turbulence and whether Relativity A) has taken a valuation haircut, B) will need to raise again soon, or C) if it ever considered going public via SPAC. 
  • Tim shares his thoughts on the economics of launch and where the market is saturated vs. undersupplied.  

…and much more. Over the course of an hour, we go from writing novels and watching Fight Club to sustaining interplanetary travel and chilling on Mars with a Corona. We hope you enjoy the discussion and learn as much as we did. 

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