Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Iridium Hires New Space Company Relativity to Launch as Many as 6 Satellites

By Rich Smith – Jun 24, 2020 at 3:21PM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

There's a new satellite launcher in town.

SpaceX. Rocket Lab. Virgin Orbit.

The list of privately owned "new space" companies that haven't yet conducted an IPO -- but became famous anyway -- grew a little longer today, when Relativity Space announced it has just won a big space launch contract from satellite communications company Iridium Communications (IRDM -0.54%).

Relativity hangar at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Image source: Relativity Space.

Who is Relativity Space? It's "the first autonomous rocket factory and launch services leader for satellite payloads," says the company itself, and a pioneer in the field of building rockets entirely through the medium of 3D printing (also known as additive manufacturing), which permits the company to dramatically reduce the number of parts that need to go into building a rocket.

In today's announcement, we learned that Iridium has picked Relativity's 3D-printed Terran 1 rocket as the vehicle that will launch up to six separate replacement satellites for Iridium's NEXT constellation of communications satellites. Terran 1 is billed as having a payload capacity of up to 1.25 metric tons, several times what Rocket Lab's Electron can carry for example, making it a medium-lift rocket.  

The contract just signed hires Relativity to conduct "up to six dedicated launches ... on an as-needed basis."  

These launches won't take place immediately -- no earlier than 2023, according to the press release. Iridium already has 66 operational NEXT satellites in orbit, as well as nine spare satellites in orbit, ready to be subbed in if any of the operational sats fail. Eventually, however, more spares may be needed. And in that event, Iridium will turn to Relativity and its Terran rockets to send up the spares. No launch price was named in the press release.

Rich Smith has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Stocks Mentioned

Iridium Communications Inc. Stock Quote
Iridium Communications Inc.
$44.37 (-0.54%) $0.24

*Average returns of all recommendations since inception. Cost basis and return based on previous market day close.

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 10/02/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.