Two young companies join SpaceX in the race to Mars. Relativity Space and Impulse Space, two California companies, have announced plans to launch a mission that will will land on the surface of Mars in less than three years. These two young shoots deserve to be taken seriously.
A Whole New Space Age
Founded in 2015, Relativity Space has raised over $1 billion and is set to launch its small Terran 1 rocket this year. This company is looking to 3D print the majority of its vehicles. Like SpaceX, its rocket is Terran is reusable. A thruster supposed to be slightly more powerful than SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and able to go to Mars. Relativity Space estimates that its rocket will be ready to be launched in 2024 in the direction of Mars to carry out a very first mission.
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For its part, Impulse Space is not even a year old. This does not prevent the company from being very ambitious. The company was founded by Tom Mueller, first employee hired by SpaceX and head of department “drive” for more than ten years. The engineer supervised for several years the manufacture of the engines which equip the Falcon 9, the Falcon Heavy and the Dragon. According to him, “we are entering a whole new era of space, and we are positioning ourselves to provide reliable, low-cost propulsion technologies”.
Relativity Space and Impulse Space are inspired by SpaceX
Together, the two companies aim to go to Mars. This idea was born last year when Relativity Space VP Engineering Zach Dunn reached out to Tom Mueller. The two men were former colleagues at SpaceX. The boss of Impulse Space had also hired Dunn at SpaceX in 2006. At the time an intern, Zach Dunn was quickly responsible for testing the engines, then the global propulsion system of the first Falcon rockets of the company. Relativity Space wants to make a splash with its first Terran-R missionand Impulse Space agreed to join the party.
To date, NASA and the Chinese space agency are the only two entities to have successfully completed a mission to Mars. The two companies do not hide their admiration for Elon Musk. According to Tim Ellis, co-founder of Relativity Space, “Elon Musk wants humanity to become a multi-planetary species. This trade mission would help to move things forward. We are huge SpaceX and Starship fans. But I think there must be several companies working on this project. I want to be the second company to come forward and say this is important. Hopefully there are many more”.