Two start-up companies are partnering to go to Mars in 2024, beating SpaceX’s ambition of reaching the Red Planet and become an inter-planetary species. The unprecedented announcement from Relativity Space and Impulse Space pledged to launch a lander to Mars in 2024.
1. Relativity Space and Impulse Space
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.
This is a major milestone for both Impulse and Relativity, as well as the entire space industry.Tom Mueller, Impulse Space CEO
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 maneuvering vehicles specifically for last-mile payload delivery,” such as the two vehicles it has proposed for the 2024 Mars mission with Relativity Space.
2. Ambitious timeline
The announcement of a potential landing on Mars from two start-ups came as a surprise, considering Relativity hasn’t launched a single rocket and that Impulse is only a year old. Still, it might not be mission impossible, notes ArsTechnica. Relativity’s first rocket is due to blast off later this year.
On top of that, one of the main Impulse Space’s brains, its CEO Tom Mueller was a founding member of SpaceX and led its propulsion department from 2014 to 2019, having previously served as VP of Propulsion Engineering from 2002 to 2014.
His partner, Relativity Space Confounder and CEO Tim Ellis, believes that this mission could unleash a global ambition of reaching the Red Planet. “We believe building a multiplanetary future on Mars is only possible if we inspire dozens to hundreds of companies to work toward a singular goal,” said Ellis in a statement. “This is a monumental challenge, but one that, successfully achieved, will expand the possibilities for human experience in our lifetime across two planets.”
One of the most challenging aspects of landing on Mars is the ‘glide stage,’ which involves an aeroshell to encapsulate the lander for the survival of Mars entry. With the power of our combined teams, experience and passion, I am confident this historic mission will be just one of many to come.Tom Mueller, Impulse Space CEO
The complexity of the mission is leaving some reservations to Northrop Grumman’s Software Engineer Ethan Och who is skeptical about the success of this mission. “While the prospect of a manned Mars mission excites me, the likelihood of achieving that kind of milestone in the next 2 years is very, very small,” said Och in a LinkedIn post.
Och argues that, in order to ensure the safety of human passengers, it takes time to identify and remedy problems with vehicle and systems designs, including exhaustive ground and flight tests. “And let’s not overlook the problems relating to food supplies, radiation exposure, long travel time, and so on. Small, incremental steps and successes are better than a large, risky, accelerated endeavor, in my opinion,” added Och.
4. SpaceX’s plans for Mars
SpaceX’s Elon Musk has long been vocal about his desire of sending humans to Mars and for humankind to become an interplanetary species. Yet, he hasn’t announced a specific date for the iconic launch, saying it will happen before the end of the decade, in five or six years.
The space company’s supremacy in the market and the remarkable technology that created SpaceX’s reusable rockets is undeniable. Still, the surge of two new start-ups sharing the same ambition — and at an earlier date — reinforces the reality that the space race of the new century is dominated by private players.