Momentus and its Vigoride Vehicle Inaugurate SpaceX’s First-ever Rideshare Operation

Momentus, a space transportation specialist firm valued at $1.2 billion, will be taken public through a SPAC deal by Stable Road Capital and listed on Nasdaq under “MNTS.” Its Vigoride vehicle is scheduled for launch later this year, inaugurating SpaceX’s first-ever dedicated rideshare operation. The partnership is expected to provide a unique growth avenue to commercialize and industrialize the space economy.

Image for post
Image for post

Momentus defines itself as a “last-mile delivery” service for spacecraft. The company is based in Santa Clara, California, and centers around its Vigoride transfer vehicle — which can deliver satellites to a specific orbit from large rockets. The vehicle is specially designed for ridesharing, a popular industry practice that allows consumers to book spaces for payloads seeking to go on a range of orbits in specific launch opportunities.

The space transportation specialist firm combines last-mile satellite and cargo delivery with rideshare launch to make precise destination orbits more affordable. Their vehicle is capable of launching on most large, mid-sized, and small rockets, and is compatible with ESPA Grande and other modern launch interfaces.

Momentus vehicles are reusable and equipped with robotic arms that can perform proximity maneuvers, docking, and refueling. These are suited for a variety of in-orbit services and can extend the lives of larger spacecrafts by relocating and de-orbiting satellites, and performing robotic repairs, salvage missions, and in-orbit assembly.

This December, the Vigoride will see the skies for the first time aboard a SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, a much-anticipated launch that promises to pave the way for continuous, effective ridesharing.

Last-Mile Services

Many space-based applications require highly precise orbits for the satellites and cargo to function correctly. Momentus offers two options for transport: A charter service and a shuttle service. The charter service grants customers the exclusive use of transport and service vehicles at a fixed price. This provides dedicated access to the entire vehicle capacity tailored to an orbit adjusted to the user’s needs. The shuttle service, on the other hand, is a more affordable option that utilizes reusable rockets to share a ride with other rideshare customers. Each satellite can, however, be delivered to precise, custom orbits in space.

In September 2019, SpaceX announced their offer to bundle small satellites on dedicated rocket rides aboard its Falcon9, and monthly rocket rides alongside regularly scheduled Starlink satellite launches. Later that year, Northrop Grumman unveiled a plan to extend the lifespan of satellites in space. RocketLab and Virgin Orbit also provide similar offerings, but SpaceX’s attention wasn’t caught by any of these candidates.

Momentus is the company that managed to secure a slot as SpaceX’s inaugural customer in the rideshare program, planned to launch Q4 2020. In a press release last December, SpaceX hinted at Momentus being more than a customer, possibly a partner.

Momentus Vehicles

Once in orbit, Momentus’s Vigoride can change orbital planes and adjust inclination, as well as provide more than 1kW of power, communication, altitude control, and orbit maintenance for the duration of a mission.

The company is currently developing a second vehicle, Ardoride. This reusable vehicle will be able to deliver small- and medium-sized satellites to custom orbits (such as Medium Earth Orbit, Geosynchronous Orbit, Highly-elliptical Orbit, and even Moon Orbit). Ardoride will also be able to provide ten times the power of Vigoride and perform a wide variety of in-orbit services in cis-lunar space.

Momentus plans to continue to expand its fleet of transfer vehicles to offer more powerful ways to deliver satellites to orbit.

The Future of Momentus

Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich has defined the company’s ultimate goal: To build the infrastructure for industrialization beyond Earth in space.

A demonstration mission was launched in 2019 and showed that key parts of the transfer vehicle (like the water plasma engines) were working correctly. Although the engines are critical to the operation, Kokorich emphasized that Momentus is “not a propulsion company.”

The Vigoride is expected to reduce the cost of reaching orbit from some $50,000 per kilogram to $15,000, and the cost of operating satellite platforms from $10 million per year to $1 million. This places Vigoride as a potential provider of affordable “satellite as a service.”

Stable Road Capital’s acquisition is expected to raise cash for Momentus, reaching $310 million. A number of deals have been signed for upcoming missions, representing approximately $90 million in potential revenue for the next several years. Additionally, the company expects to gain $1.1 billion in contracts through US government awards and further customer contracts. By 2023, Momentus’s annual revenue could exceed $500 million.

The first Vigoride mission is slated for launch on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in December of this year. It seems that SpaceX and Momentus perfectly complement each other for reliable and affordable launch payloads for small satellite operators. The Vigoride can enhance the attractiveness of SpaceX’s rideshare program, which makes the new acquisition announcement particularly relevant for space services.

This article was originally published in Startup Savant with the titleMomentus, the Affordable Space Rideshare Program, Decides to Go Publicon October 12, 2020. Link: https://startupsavant.com/news/momentus-space-rideshare

Written by

Anthropologist & User Experience Designer. I write about science and technology. Robot whisperer. VR enthusiast. Gamer. @yisela_at www.yisela.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store