Space of relativity is expanding its investments at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, with the company announcing today that it will lease a historic first-stage testbed to advance development of the Terran R launch vehicle.
Under the new agreement, Relativity will lease the A-2 testbed from NASA for a period of seven years, at a price of $2.76 million. The company has the possibility to renew the lease for up to a further 10 years. The new investment brings Relativity’s total Stennis, Mississippi-based footprint to more than 300 acres.
Like many other test stands at Stennis, Stand A-2 was originally built in the 1960s to test Saturn V rocket engines. Since 1976, NASA has used the stand to test the Space Shuttle main engines; most recently, the space agency tested J-2X rocket engines on the stand. This marks the first time the stand will be used by a commercial aerospace company.
“The A-2 testbed has a rich history for NASA and NASA Stennis,” NASA Stennis Director Rick Gilbrech said in a statement. “It has been the site of numerous critical tests, including the Apollo Saturn S-II stage, the Space Shuttle main engine, and the Constellation J-2X engine test programs. It is exciting to see this historic facility continue to provide valuable propulsion service nearly 60 years later.”
The booth has sat unused for nearly a decade, so Relativity will put an undisclosed amount of capital into modernizing and retrofitting the infrastructure. For example, the testbed is currently only configured to support up to 650,000 pounds of thrust. Following Relativity’s upgrades, the stand will be able to sustain a boost of more than £3.3 million.
Eventually, the company plans to conduct advanced first-stage tests of the medium-to-heavy-lift Terran R rocket. In a statement, Relativity said the new booth will allow the company to increase its testing cadence and reduce time to market.
Relativity has its largest commercial presence in Stennis, where it holds other 10-year exclusive-use agreements for the E2 and E4 engine test complexes. The company is currently building facilities called the R Complex, which will support testing of Terran R vehicles and engines and will include additional engine test stands and a full-scale stand for second-stage testing.
The company plans to eventually invest $267 million in its Stennis facilities by 2027. Relativity’s goal is to launch Terran R for the first time in 2026.