The race to Mars is getting crowded.
Two startup space companies in California, Relativity Space and Impulse Space, announced today (July 19) that they are teaming up to launch the first commercial mission to Mars in 2024, years before the first potential trip by a more reputable SpaceXwhich is known for its long-term plans to establish a human settlement on the Red Planet.
According to Press release (will open in a new tab), Relative space will provide reusable 3D printed Terran R rocket to launch the mission, and Impulse Space will provide its Martian cruise ship and Martian lander to place equipment on the Martian surface.
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The 2024 schedule for this proposed mission will put Relativity Space and Impulse Space ahead of Elon Musk’s company, which could have a commercial mission to Mars. by the end of this decade, according to the company’s president and chief operating officer, Gwynn Shotwell. SpaceX has yet to set an exact date for a planned flight to Mars.
If Relativity and Impulse succeed in their plan, they could become the first commercial space companies to reach the Red Planet. However, it is important to note that none of the companies has yet sent a single payload into space.
This does not mean that they did not lay the foundation. Relativity Space was founded in 2015 and has since raised over $1 billion in funding. It is reported by Ars Technica. (will open in a new tab). The firm has pioneered the use of metal 3D printers to fabricate the fuselages and engines of its rockets, a manufacturing approach Relativity claims reduces supply chain complexity and development timelines.
Relativity Space is currently running or developing several launch complexes and related infrastructure (will open in a new tab) at several US Air Force and NASA facilities. While this design makes it clear that Relativity Space intends to become a major player in the commercial launch services industry, it has yet to launch a rocket into space. The 2024 mission will be the first launch of a Terran R launch vehicle by Relativity.
Impulse Space was founded in 2021 and currently has 40 employees. According to them LinkedIn Page (will open in a new tab), the firm intends to provide “low-cost, responsive payload delivery to last mile space” so that customers can “access any orbit” or even reach other worlds. According to their website, the company specializes in “creating orbital maneuverers specifically for last-mile payload delivery,” such as the two vehicles it proposed for the 2024 Mars mission with Relativity Space.
Although the planned 2024 mission will be their first, both companies’ executives have made it clear that they are confident that this partnership will be able to deliver a payload to Mars.
“This is a significant milestone for both Impulse and Relativity, and for the entire space industry,” Impulse Space founder and CEO Tom Muller said in a statement. “One of the most difficult aspects of landing on Mars is the “planning phase,” which includes an aerodynamic shell to encapsulate the lander for survival on Mars. Thanks to the strength of our combined teams, experience and enthusiasm, I am confident that this historic mission will be just one of many to come.”
Muller of Impulse was a founding member of SpaceX and led its engine division from 2014 to 2019, having previously served as vice president of engine development from 2002 to 2014. according to his LinkedIn profile (will open in a new tab).
For his part, Relativity Space co-founder and CEO Tim Ellis said the partnership between the two firms makes humanity’s dream of reaching Mars achievable. “We believe that building a multi-planetary future on Mars is only possible if we inspire dozens and hundreds of companies to work towards a common goal,” Ellis said in a statement. “This is a monumental task, but one that, if successfully accomplished, will expand the possibilities of human experience over the course of our lives on two planets.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Mueller said (will open in a new tab) that landing a spacecraft on Mars by 2024 is a huge challenge, and while there are many skeptics who believe the mission is unlikely to succeed, that’s the level of challenge the company is aiming for.
“We need to do what people think is impossible,” Mueller said in an interview with the Times. (will open in a new tab).
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