Private launch provider Relativity Space has secured exclusive rights to Launch Complex 16 (LC16) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The company hopes to launch the maiden flight of their Terran 1 rocket from the facility next year.
Relativity Space revealed that they had won the right to develop a launch facility for their Terran 1 rocket at Cape Canaveral on January 17. The company evaluated several other launch facilities but considered Cape Canaveral as their clear favourite.
“The clear winner to us was partnering with the U.S. Air Force at Cape Canaveral,” said chief executive of Relativity Space, Tim Ellis, in an interview. “We really view it as the most elite launch site in the world.”
The long-dormant LC16 was built in the 1950s to test Titan 1 and Titan 2 multistage intercontinental ballistic missiles. In the 1960s, the site was transferred to NASA and used for Gemini crew processing and static fire tests of Apollo Service Module engines. In 1972, the site was returned to the Air Force and used to launch more than 100 Pershing ballistic missiles between May 1974 and March 1988. Since then, the site has remained inactive.
Relativity Space reportedly plans to pour more than $10 million into the development of LC16. Once operational, the site will be used to support missions requiring low and mid-inclination orbits. It will, however not be suitable for either polar or sun-synchronous orbits. The company is currently evaluating additional launch sites to support polar and sun-synchronous missions.
The maiden launch of the Terran 1 is currently scheduled for 2020 with the company hoping to begin commercial operations by 2021. With a launch cost of just $10 million dollars for payloads of up to 1,250 kilograms, the fledgeling launch provider may very well disrupt the dominance of industry stalwarts like SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.