Relativity Space: How a Sex Scandal Helped Create a Space Company
By Space Coast Daily // March 25, 2020
The aerospace industry is one of the most promising and rapidly developing. It attracts large investors and the best engineers.
More and more players appear on the market. During the last quarter of 2019 alone, private space companies received nearly $700 million of investment.
Many companies are considered promising startups in the sector. Among them is Relativity Space, founded in December 2015.
The company’s main projects today are the two-stage Terran 1 launch vehicle and the Aeon 1 rocket engine installed on the first and second stages of Terran 1.
Production is carried out using the Stargate 3D printer, which employs laser sintering technology using metal powder.
On August 23, 2016, the company entered into an agreement with NASA, under which Relativity Space gained access to the site for testing the engine, a stand for horizontal or vertical testing for the required traction.
In March 2018, Relativity and NASA’s Stennis Space Center (SSC) entered into a new agreement for the rental of the E4 test stand for a period of 10 years with the possibility of extension for another 10 years.
In June-2019 Relativity Space also rented premises on the territory of SSC.
The first test launch of the rocket is planned for the end of 2020. The team is growing rapidly. Since May 2018, headcount has increased fivefold times (from 21 to 100 employees).
The young company has not yet achieved significant success, but in NewSpace circles, there has been lots of talk about Relativity Space, especially the source of most of its financing.
Who is Andy Rubin?
The main investor in the space company Relativity Space is the Playground Global venture fund founded by Andy Rubin.
Andy Rubin is known as the inventor of the Android operating system. He was Google’s senior vice president and head of robotics. At the end of 2014, Rubin left the company.
It was an amicable parting. Rubin received thanks from Larry Page and, according to the official version, left the company to devote his time to startups.
A few years later it turned out that Rubin left the company for a sordid reason: a sex scandal. Reporters from The New York Times broke the story, publishing several articles as part of their investigation.
Rubin was accused of ordering a subordinate to perform oral sex. A complaint was filed to Google’s Human Resources Department. According to rumors, he used his official position more than once to receive sexual favors.
The company conducted its own investigation and found that the charge was fully justified. Google executives hastened to say goodbye to their vice president. At the same time, Rubin was paid $90 million in monetary compensation – for his silence.
The receipt of such an impressive amount and the lack of fair punishment seriously angered a huge number of people, primarily Google employees.
In November 2018, employees of the company staged a strike at their headquarters in Mountain View, California to protest.
Meanwhile, the money allowed Android’s father not just to stay afloat, but to found the Playground Global venture capital firm.
Playground Global’s investments
The breakup with Google went very smoothly, the company not only maintained contact with Rubin for several more years due to payments but also invested in his venture firm Playground Global.
Rubin’s reputation was seriously damaged, but working through the fund helped to simplify the situation a bit. Thanks to Playground Global, investments were not directly associated with Rubin’s name.
The fund was conceived as a business incubator for technology startups and it became him, sponsoring new players in the market. They included aerospace company Relativity Space, which was created thanks to the fund’s investments founded by Andy Rubin. Playground Global invested $35 million in Relativity Space and became one of the largest investors.
At the end of May 2019, Andy Rubin ended his business relationship with Playground Global for unknown reasons, but his dirty money has already been successfully used by Relativity Space.
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