Mikhail Kokorich, Momentus’ CEO answered email questions from Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture. Momentus is pioneering new forms of orbital transfer services via shuttles that attach to satellites in Earth orbit. Using microwave heated propulsion engine that will be two to three times more fuel-efficient than the best chemical rockets, the shuttles are then able to move satellites to other orbits including geostationary orbit, the Moon, and deep space destinations.
Nextbigfuture asked – Can you provide info on how this will accelerate development and what is happening with the NIAC phase 2 and iTech awards?
Momentus is currently performing in-space testing of their Vigoride shuttle with payload/ESPA Class capability up to 200 kg from LEO to GEO or even as far as the Moon orbit. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is only halfway to many of the destinations Momentus’ current customers, and future customers in developing space industries need to get to. Orbits like geosynchronous, Molnia orbit are the interest for telecommunication, meteorological, in-orbit servicing application. Further destinations like lunar orbit, Lagrange points or beyond are interested in scientific exploration, in-space resources, etc. With a ∆V of up to 6 km per second, we are developing Vigoride Extended (the second product in the Momentus roadmap of services) to continue to make orbital repositioning cost-effective.
Momentus CTO Joel Sercel is leading a team of researchers with NIAC funding (the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts program) to build a working model of optical mining technology for asteroids. Resource prospecting, extraction, and delivery in space are all of huge importance to Momentus’ offering, and Momentus hardware will be used in an execution.
The iTech Award is competition led by NASA to search and identify advancements in technologies not already funded by NASA, that have the potential to address existing challenges to enable NASA missions.
Efficiently Moving Satellites From Lower to Higher Orbits and to the Moon from Orbit
• Constellations of satellites are needed for applications such as remote sensing, internet from space or weather observation. However, these constellations require satellites to be deployed to multiple specific orbits. Currently, it is too expensive to use even low-cost reusable rockets to deliver satellites to every orbit.
• To solve this problem, Momentus is providing a shuttle service for satellites. Large rockets deliver our shuttles loaded with satellites into an initial orbit. Our shuttles then transport these satellites the last mile to their target orbits. Our satellite shuttles are powered by water plasma engines which makes deploying the satellites two to three times cheaper.
• The Momentus team is comprised of young and experienced professionals from leading U.S. space companies and institutions including JPL, Penstate, Caltech, SpaceX, SSL and Busek
• We finished final design of Vigoride shuttle, and plan to roll-out production in Q4 of 2019
• We are currently working on Vigoride Extended and Ardoride shuttles to provide more transportation capabilities for customers
– Small satellites (up to 250 kg)
– Lower Earth Orbit
– Satellites (up to 2,000 kg)
– Geosynchronous Orbit
– Lunar Orbit
Our shuttles, loaded with customer satellites, ride into space on either dedicated or rideshare rockets. After the rocket reaches its initial orbit, they separate from the rocket and start their own journey to deliver each satellite to its individual orbit.
Currently their satellite shuttles are expendable, but in the future they will make them reusable. They plan to operate several types of satellite shuttles, each tailored to a specific mass and orbit capabilities.
SOURCES- Momentus, CEO email interview
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com. Contact blwang at gmail dot com