Relativity Space and Ellume Garner IEEE Spectrum Awards

Terran 1
Photo: Edward Carreon Photography/Relativity Space
Relativity Space's CEO Tim Ellis stands alongside part of the company’s 3D-printed rocket, Terran 1, scheduled to launch in 2021.

By: Susan Hassler

It was back in 2005 that the first IEEE Spectrum Awards were presented to Nesscap Co., a South Korean maker of ultracapacitors, and to Microsoft TV, for Internet Protocol television. In those days, the IEEE Spectrum Awards were given out in partnership with EE Times, at the Annual Creativity in Electronics (ACE) Awards.

In 2015, we were delighted to be able to join IEEE’s Honors Ceremony to present the IEEE Spectrum Awards. The first of these yearly awards, for Technology in the Service of Society, recognizes a standout achievement in IEEE’s core mission: to foster technological innovation and excellence for the benefit of humanity. The second, the Emerging Technology Award, honors an emerging technology that has the potential to transform an entire industry.

This year, the IEEE Spectrum Awards will be presented at the 2021 IEEE Vision, Innovation, and Challenges Summit & Honors Ceremony, which will be held virtually on 11–13 May 2021.

The winning companies are chosen by IEEE Spectrum’s editors. Every January, we review notable technology achievements that have appeared in our coverage and elsewhere over the past year or so. In a series of meetings, the editors nominate specific achievements for each of the two categories. We then debate the merits of the nominees before reaching a final decision.

It was particularly difficult this year to settle on a company for the category of Technology In Service of Society. The pandemic has inspired engineers worldwide to rise to the challenge of designing technologies to help defeat COVID-19. We had many deliberations and considered dozens of nominees, but we agreed unanimously that this award should go to Ellume, of East Brisbane, Australia, for its COVID-19 Home Test.

Founded in 2010 by Dr. Sean Parsons, Ellume makes diagnostic health care products that are designed to work with mobile devices. Ellume’s home test is the first to be authorized by the FDA and the first to become commercially available—over the counter and without a prescription. The test will initially be rolled out in the United States and will cost US $38.99.

For our awardee in the category of Emerging Technology, not even the sky’s the limit. After considering dozens of serious contenders, we are pleased to present the award to the rocket startup company Relativity Space, from Long Beach, Calif., for its Stargate factory technology, which makes it possible to 3D print a small-lift launch vehicle in weeks instead of months. Apart from its electrical systems, the entire rocket is made up of 3D-printed parts.

Tim Ellis is the CEO, and he cofounded Relativity Space in 2015. It’s the world’s first “all in one” rocket factory. By fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and “intelligent” robotics, Relativity Space is changing the future of space exploration. Its first 3D-printed rocket, Terran 1, is scheduled to launch in 2021.

This article appears in the May 2021 print issue as “Ellume and Relativity Space Win IEEE Spectrum Awards.”

Editor's note: This article was updated on 22 April 2021 to state that the Ellume test will be distributed only in the U.S. for now.

This article originally appeared in IEEE Spectrum on 21 April 2021.