A California rocket company has reached an agreement with the John C. Stennis Space Center to test engines in a move NASA officials hope might generate new economic opportunities down the line.
Relativity Space said in a press release that it had finalized the first-ever Commercial Space Launch Act lease at Stennis and will have exclusive use of the E4 test complex that will enable the company to rapidly develop its Terran 1 vehicle.
Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder of Relativity Space, said in a news release that the testing agreement will save the company upwards of $30 million in testing infrastructure costs.
“Our partnership with Stennis is an important milestone for Relativity. We are an emerging leader in America’s commercial space industry and, as the company moves into its next phase of growth, this agreement gives us the certainty and flexibility we need to develop our vehicle in the most efficient way possible. Our team and the path-breaking technology they have developed are reimagining the way rockets are built and flown and this partnership will help us make our vision a reality. Relativity Space looks forward to serving the rapidly growing market for launch services and we are grateful to the entire Stennis team for their support.”
Under the Commercial Space Launch Act (CSLA), NASA seeks partnerships with private companies to use "underutilized'' facilities, in this case a testing area that NASA no longer uses at Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, MS.
Stennis Director Richard Gilbrech said in the Relativity news release, "This is an exciting time for us. Signing of our first CSLA agreement with Relativity Space opens yet another avenue for commercial customers to perform cost-efficient engine testing at Stennis."
Relativity Space has a 10-year lease with an option for another 10 years. NASA developed the 25-acre E4 complex with multiple test cells to accommodate testing engines up to several hundred thousand pounds of thrust, the company said.
Over time, Relativity plans to use E4 to initially qualify and acceptance test more than 36 vehicles and 360 engines per year.
Relativity Space is a Los Angeles-based compan, founded in 2015 developing small-launch vehicles using 3D printing technology to cut production costs and development time.
Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team and a well-known television personality, is as investor in Relativity Space.