This week's Pathfinder pod features Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis. Tim walks us through what went wrong during Terran 1's flight and why it won't happen with Terran R. Listen to Pathfinder #0071 for more on Relativity’s future on Mars, whether there’s a rocket larger than Terran R in Relativity’s future, the long-term strategy for 3D printing, and much more.
Relativity Space CEO Tim Ellis knows what went wrong during Terran 1’s first flight—and he shared with Payload why he is confident the same thing won’t happen to the startup’s Terran R rocket.
What’s next: After the March flight, Relativity announced that it was scrapping Terran 1 development to focus solely on its larger Terran R vehicle.
Ellis emphasized that this shift is not merely about scaling size, but also better aligning with market demands ($1.8B Terran R pipeline) and the broader vision of the company.
Overall R&D costs should be in the ballpark of ~$1B, Ellis estimated, adding that it is designed to be reusable from the start and carry 23,500 kg to LEO.
Brand awareness: In an industry dealing with expensive, long-term projects (i.e., space), it's crucial to inspire and motivate people by focusing on high-effort, creative presentations, Ellis said. The aim is to make Relativity not just a rocket company but a brand that resonates with a broader audience. And music—particularly electronic music—plays a role in the brand's energy, reflecting Ellis's personal tastes.
Listen to Pathfinder #0071 for more on Relativity’s future on Mars, whether there’s a rocket larger than Terran R in Relativity’s future, the long-term strategy for 3D printing, and much more.
This episode is brought to you by SpiderOak, a US-based software company that builds space cybersecurity products and solutions for civilian, military, and commercial space operations. Learn more at https://spideroak.com/
• Chapters •
00:00 - Intro & SpiderOak Ad
01:09 - The night of the Terran 1 launch
05:11 - What went wrong?
10:11 - Why not launch Terran 1 again?
15:18 - Are investors okay pushing out an orbital proof point?
20:38 - Terran R tech specs
29:05 - SpiderOak Ad break
29:52 - Milestones for Terran R
34:31 - Terran R's manufacturing cadence at scale
37:46 - Terran R R&D costs (vs Falcon 9)
46:13 - 3D printing the Terran R
51:34 - The future of 3D printing
58:32 - Relativity's marketing strategy
01:09:53 - Heavier than Terran R
01:14:48 - Relativity & Mars
01:15:22 - Tim's favorite musical artists
• Show notes •
Relativity's website — https://www.relativityspace.com/
Relativity's socials — https://twitter.com/relativityspace
Tim's socials — https://twitter.com/thetimellis
Mo's socials — https://twitter.com/itsmoislam
Payload’s socials — https://twitter.com/payloadspace / https://www.linkedin.com/company/payloadspace
Pathfinder archive — Watch: https://www.youtube.com/@payloadspace Pathfinder archive — Listen: https://pod.payloadspace.com/episodes
• About us •
Pathfinder is brought to you by Payload, a modern space media brand built from the ground up for a new age of space exploration and commercialization. We deliver need-to-know news and insights daily to 15,000+ commercial, civil, and military space leaders. Payload is read by decision-makers at every leading new space company, along with c-suite leaders at all of the aerospace & defense primes. We’re also read on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon, and at space agencies around the world. Payload began as a weekly email sent to a few friends and coworkers.
Today, we’re a team distributed across four time zones and two continents, publishing three media properties across multiple platforms: 1) Payload, our flagship daily newsletter, sends M-F @ 9am Eastern (https://newsletter.payloadspace.com/) 2) Pathfinder publishes weekly on Tuesday mornings (pod.payloadspace.com) 3) Polaris, our weekly policy publication, hits inboxes Tuesday (https://polaris.payloadspace.com/) 4) Parallax, our weekly space science briefing, hits inboxes Thursday (https://parallax.payloadspace.com/)