Last year, Relativity Space and Impulse Space teamed up to race Elon Musk to reach Mars, promising a lander launch in 2024. However, during the Humans to Mars Summit, held in Washington DC from May 16 to May 18, executives from the two companies announced the first commercial mission to the Red Planet will be postponed 2026.
According to a report from Space News, the companies did not reveal the cause of the delay, however, since Relativity Space had previously announced the inauguration of its Terran R rocket only in 2026, waiting for this newer version of the Terran-1 rocket could be the reason.
Our long-term vision has been to be one of the companies that makes a permanent presence on Mars possible.Josh Brost, Relativity Space Senior VP of Revenue Operations
Space missions have specific windows for launching when conditions are appropriate for the rockets to reach their intended orbit. For Mars, these windows only occur every 24 months, so regardless of who gets there first, a mission to the Red Planet can either take off next year or in 2026.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has also pledged to create a human colony on Mars, promising to land on the planet by the end of the decade. “In the last several years, there’s really been one loud commercial voice talking about Mars”, Relativity Space Senior VP of Revenue Operations Josh Brost commented on SpaceX. “But for Mars to really happen and be affordable and sustainable and all of those things, it doesn’t take one company. It takes dozens or hundreds. You need lots of different people working on different parts of the problem set.”
The team’s ambition is to create a “constant supply chain to Mars”, which would make reaching the planet affordable. They plan on using every launch window, launching at least one mission every 24 months. “By making transport to Mars more affordable, you open up that iteration loop that can lead to advancements that just could not have been envisioned previously”, said Brost.
The two private companies are still in their infancy as Relative was founded in 2015 and impulse only in 2021. Relative has been pioneering the use of metal 3D printers to manufacture its rockets’ fuselages and engines and it has managed to raise more than $1 billion in funding since its inception, according to ArsTechnica.
As for Impulse, according to its LinkedIn page, it intends to enable “low-cost and nimble last-mile space payload delivery” so that customers can “access any orbit” or even reach other worlds. According to their website, the company specializes in “creating orbital manoeuvring vehicles specifically for last-mile payload delivery,” such as the two vehicles it has proposed for the Mars mission with Relativity Space.