Companies Aim to Beat SpaceX to Mars

Only 111 million miles stand between them and their goal.

Elon Musk and SpaceX have made it abundantly clear that they’re going to Mars. The company is at work on Starship, which it says will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle, capable of taking a full crew and lots of cargo to the red planet. But they may not get there first.

Relativity Space and Impulse Space have teamed up for a trip to Mars and, if everything goes as planned, they might be heading there very soon. The companies said that in 2024, Impulse’s Mars cruise vehicle and Mars lander will hitch a ride on Relativity’s fully reusable and entirely 3D-printed rocket. The companies said it will mark the first commercial mission to Mars.

However, Relativity hasn’t done much actual space travel yet, the type of experience that would make such an optimistic timeline for making it to Mars seem a little more realistic. The New York Times said Relativity still hasn’t launched its Terran 1 rocket, though it may finally get the chance soon from Cape Canaveral. But it will be the larger Terran R rocket flying to Mars, and that spacecraft won’t be ready to go for a few years.

But Relativity’s partner Impulse could help inspire confidence in this audacious mission given that its founder, Thomas Mueller, worked at SpaceX since the beginning and helped build the rockets that power the Falcon 9.

Relativity and Impulse will have their work cut out for them. Once the Terran R takes Impulse’s lander and vehicle into space, they’ll detach and travel for nine months to Mars. Once they get there, they’ll need to make sure they don’t melt while going 12,000 miles per hour through the atmosphere before sticking the landing.

If Relativity and Impulse can make it to Mars, they’ll open up a lucrative business sending cargo to the red planet for willing customers. The company already has five customers for Terran R for a total booking of $1.2 billion, including a multi-launch agreement with OneWeb, a satellite communications company.

Only 111 million miles stand between them and their goal.

More in Video