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Relativity Space inks deals for California launch pad, Iridium satellite launches

An artist's depiction of the Relativity Space launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
An artist's depiction of the Relativity Space launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
(Image: © Relativity Space)

Relativity Space has signed agreements for a new launch site in California and a new customer, Iridium, for satellite flights from the new pad.

The small-satellite launch startup, founded by SpaceX and Blue Origin alums, is focused on designing 3D-printed rockets that are simpler than rockets from their competitors and that the company can cheaply and easily prepare. Relativity Space's first launch, which will send off a 95-foot-tall (29 meters) rocket called Terran, is currently set to lift off next year at the earliest.

Related: Relativity Space will 3D-print rockets at new autonomous factory

The startup's headquarters is in Long Beach, California, following a recent move from Los Angeles. Now, the company will have a launch site nearby.

Relativity Space had already made the arrangements necessary to launch from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Now, the company is adding access at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That launch site is crucial for satellites that orbit Earth from pole to pole and that track the sun's apparent movement across Earth's surface.

"We're honored to begin this partnership with the 30th Space Wing and join the exclusive group of private space companies able to conduct launches at Vandenberg," Tim Ellis, CEO of Relativity Space, said in a statement.

The company has also booked a new customer, Iridium's Next communications satellite constellation, which requires the polar orbit reachable from Vandenberg. This agreement covers up to six Iridium launches of ground spares in the communications constellation, beginning no earlier than 2023. The launches would be scheduled to meet Iridium's constellation needs.

The main Iridium Next constellation includes 66 operating satellites and nine spares stored in orbit. But if the company finds itself in need of launching its additional spares, stored on Earth, Relativity Space will now be the company to do it.

"It's prudent to have a cost-effective launch option available for future spare delivery," Matt Desch CEO of Iridium, said in a Relativity Space statement. "Relativity's Terran 1 fits our launch needs to [low Earth orbit] well from both a price, responsiveness and capability perspective." 

Email Meghan Bartels at mbartels@space.com or follow her @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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