California, USA-based Relativity Space and Impulse Space have partnered to deliver the first commercial payload to the surface of Mars. Under the agreement, Relativity will use its additively manufactured Terran R rocket to launch Impulse’s Mars Cruise Vehicle and Mars Lander from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with a launch window beginning in 2024.
Once in Mars orbit, the aeroshell-equipped Mars Lander will enter the red planet’s atmosphere and propulsively land on Mars’ surface.
With a five-meter payload fairing and the ability to launch almost 20 times greater payload than Terran 1 – Relativity’s first additively manufactured rocket set for its first orbital launch this year – Terran R is said to offer both government and commercial customers more affordable access to space. Terran R also serves as a point-to-point space freighter capable of missions between Earth, the Moon and Mars. To date, Relativity has signed a total of five customers for Terran R totalling more than $1.2 billion in backlog, including a multi-year, multi-launch Launch Services Agreement (LSA) with OneWeb.
Relativity’s proprietary Additive Manufacturing process centres on its Stargate Additive Manufacturing machine, said to be one of the world’s largest for metal Additive Manufacturing, which the company developed in house. To date, Relativity has created four iterations of Stargate, with its most recent version improving its prior generation’s build speed tenfold.
“This is a major milestone for both Impulse and Relativity, as well as the entire space industry,” stated Tom Mueller, founder and CEO. “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.”
Tim Ellis, co-founder and CEO of Relativity, added, “We believe building a multi-planetary future on Mars is only possible if we inspire dozens to hundreds of companies to work toward a singular goal. This is a monumental challenge, but one that successfully achieved will expand the possibilities for human experience in our lifetime across two planets. With the delivery capabilities of Terran R coupled with Impulse’s in-space transportation, we are bringing humanity one step closer to making Mars a reality. This is a historic, impactful partnership with Tom and the entire Impulse team through the collaboration of two low-cost commercial providers that will establish and expand our presence on Mars.”