Featured Image Source: Momentus
Momentus offers shuttle services in space for satellites. The company announced it purchased ride slots on six future SpaceX missions under the SmallSat Rideshare Program. The program gives an opportunity for companies to launch small satellites (SmallSat) to space destinations for as low as $1 million, by sharing spacecraft with a larger payload. In the grand scheme of things, a $1 million price tag is quite cheap for a satellite deployment - booking an entire rocket flight can cost up to $60 million. So, SpaceX's SmallSat Rideshare Program gives companies with a smaller budget the opportunity to launch small payloads, weighing up to 200 kilograms, into orbit. It’s the first program of its kind in the aerospace industry that allows essentially anyone with the right technology and enough money to launch anything into space. Tom Ochinero, SpaceX Vice President of commercial sales, said:
"We are excited to continue our work with Momentus to offer small satellite operators reliable and cost-efficient rides to space."
Momentus' "shuttle" spacecraft called Vigoride, will launch during ride-share missions that are scheduled for 2020 and 2021. Momentus wrote in a statement:
"In the past, smallsat operators had to squeeze in alongside larger, more expensive equipment that would dictate the launch schedule. By augmenting SpaceX’s innovative ridesharing program, Momentus is saving time and money for smallsat operators to reach a given destination orbit…opening up space for a new era."
Companies that booked Momentus space shuttle services will mount satellites on the Vigoride spacecraft. Each payload will weigh less than 350 kilograms. Once all payload is mounted, Vigoride will ride atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to deliver it into a Sun-synchronous orbit, on five out of the six booked missions. The other mission will be deployed into a mid-inclined low Earth orbit. After deployment, the Vigoride spacecraft will ignite its propulsion system to transport its payloads further away into specific orbits between 300 to 2,000 kilometers beyond its initial orbit. Momentus Chief Executive Officer Mikhail Kokorich said in a statement on March 9:
"We hope to show that ride-sharing from the Falcon 9 will be a game-changer. By ferrying payloads to multiple orbits from a single launch, we multiply the capability of an already impressive system that has revolutionized access to space."
Companies who already booked a shuttle-ride abaord the Vigoride craft for the 2020 and 2021 include: The United Kingdom startup Steamjet Space Systems, Aurora Propulsion Technologies of Finland, and NuSpace of Singapore. Other Momentum customers for future missions are, C3S Electronics Development of Hungary and Spacemanic of Slovakia.