Tight schedule for the June launch of the first Momentus tug

WASHINGTON — Space transportation company Momentus says it is making good progress toward the first launch of its Vigoride space tug, but the schedule is “tight” for a June launch.

During an earnings call on March 8 following the release of its fourth quarter and full year 2021 financial results, company executives said its Vigoride 3 tug had recently completed thermal vacuum testing at the system, and engineers are currently working on unspecified issues with the spacecraft found during these tests.

“We continue to believe that our Vigoride 3 is on track to complete ground testing in time for our inaugural launch, scheduled for June, although the schedule is tight,” said John Rood, Momentus Chief Executive Officer.

The company is facing technical and regulatory hurdles to launch the tug in June. In addition to engineering work on the spacecraft, the company must also obtain a license from the Federal Communications Commission, a payload review from the Federal Aviation Administration and what Rood called a “minor modification” to its license. existing imagery from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“We are currently planning our inaugural mission with Vigoride in June 2022, subject to receipt of these licenses and government approvals, and completion of work to prepare the system,” he said. Momentus has filed for a license with the FCC and entered into discussions with the FAA.

Licensing proved to be a challenge for Momentus in 2021, when it was forced to postpone launches of an earlier version of its Vigoride tug on two SpaceX rideshare missions in January and June, when he was unable to obtain a payload review from the FAA. Government agencies raised concerns about the company’s Russian co-founders, leading the company to buy them out and implement a national security deal with the Defense and Treasury Departments.

Rood said the company is making “significant progress” in implementing the agreement, with a focus on modernizing its information technology systems. “The IT modernization plan has been a heavy burden for the business, but we have now implemented the bulk of this modernization plan.”

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 9, the company said it made two voluntary notifications to the Commerce Department last year of involuntary transfers of information and materials controlled under regulations. on export administration to entities in Germany, Italy and Norway. , Poland and Singapore. The company said it is awaiting a decision from the department on potential penalties resulting from these transfers.

He pointed out that Vigoride 3, when launched, will primarily be a technology demonstration mission of the vehicle, which is designed to deploy satellites to different orbits as well as accommodate hosted payloads. “We also plan to put some customer payloads into orbit and generate a small amount of revenue from this mission,” he said. “However, the primary objectives of the mission are to test Vigoride in orbit, learn from any issues we encounter, and take significant steps to establish the viability of our initial offering in the market.”

Vigoride 3 is currently slated to fly on SpaceX’s dedicated Transporter-5 rideshare mission in June. Momentus said it has signed an agreement with SpaceX for a second port on this launch, as well as space on the next four Transporter rideshare missions, which are scheduled to launch between October 2022 and October 2023. These additional launches serve the save times if Vigoride 3 is delayed as well as for future missions.

The second port on Transporter-5 will be used for customers who do not need the space transport services provided by Vigoride, and at a lower price. Rood said Momentus will acquire a deployer from a “trusted partner” he has not identified for this second port. “While this system cannot provide the last mile transportation service that Vigoride can, it is less expensive and meets the needs of some of the customers in our backlog.”

“We don’t know if this approach will be part of our long-term plans, and what we’re doing doesn’t require any upfront investment to develop the hardware or introduce the service,” he said. “As we move forward, we will determine if this part of the market offers enough growth and profitability opportunities for us to include it on a more permanent basis.”

Momentus recorded no revenue in the fourth quarter of 2021 and only $330,000 for the full year. It reported an adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) loss of $59.4 million for 2021. Jikun Kim, the company’s chief financial officer, said the company has enough cash to spend to the “front end” of 2023.

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