WASHINGTON, Oct 6 (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Wednesday it was proposing to issue a vehicle operator license to venture-backed startup Relativity Space after completing an environmental review.
The FAA said Relativity Space must also meet agency safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements before a license can be issued.
The company plans to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and the environemntal assessment was prepared by the U.S. Air Force with the FAA as a cooperating agency.
Relativity Space, which aims to build the world’s first fleet of 3D-printed rockets, said in June it raised $650 million from a raft of new investors including BlackRock, hedge fund Soroban Capital, and the actor Jared Leto.
Relativity, which has yet to launch a rocket, in June was valued at $4.2 billion, making it the second-most valuable privately-held space firm behind Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The funding is expected to speed production of Relativity’s new booster, Terran R, set to enter service in 2024 as a rival to SpaceX’s pioneering and dominant medium-lift reusable Falcon 9 workhorse, Relativity’s CEO Tim Ellis said in June.
Long Beach, California-based Relativity promises boosters built almost entirely by colossal 3D printers that can crank out a full-scale rocket in just 60 days. Such automation is vital to human ambitions to colonize Mars, Ellis said.
Relativity has inked launch contracts with the U.S. Defense Department, NASA, and Iridium Communications Inc for rides to space on its Terran 1. That rocket can blast up to 2,755 pounds (1,250 kg) into orbit for $12 million.
The $650 million round brought Relativity’s total funding to $1.3 billion