Relativity Space has signed a launch agreement with Intelsat that would see the telecom giant’s satellites fly on a Terran R rocket as early as 2026.
Relativity did not disclose the value of the contract but did say that it brings the total backlog for Terran R to $1.8 billion across nine customers. Terran R has yet to fly. The rocket’s first test launch will not take place until 2026 at the earliest, Relativity CEO Tim Ellis said earlier this year.
Terran R is a medium-lift launch vehicle that will be capable of carrying up to 23,500 kilograms in a reusable configuration to upwards of 33,500 kilograms when used expendably. The 270-foot-tall rocket will be competing with the likes of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which currently holds a near-monopoly on American launch services.
Relativity is sharply aware of this monopoly. In a statement about the new deal with Intelsat, Ellis called it out: “The space industry clearly requires more commercially competitive, diversified, and disruptive launch capacity,” he said. “Relativity is developing Terran R as a customer-focused reusable launch vehicle to solve this need.”
While Terran R has been in the works for a while, Relativity Space announced in April that it was shelving its small launch vehicle, Terran 1, to go all-in on the bigger vehicle. That change is reflective of the evolution of the launch market, where customers are either looking to launch a single satellite at a time, and thus are willing to cut costs by going with a ride-share mission; or else are launching mega-constellations made up of thousands of satellites, and require high payload volume on the rocket.
Relativity conducted a single test launch of Terran 1 in March. While the rocket failed to reach orbit (completely normal for a first-time attempt of a new rocket), Relativity crowned the test a success.