Posted inCommercial

Made In Space Europe and Momentus plan robotic spacecraft

Momentus Vigoride
Artist's render of the Momentus Vigoride space transfer vehicle with a robotic arm from Made In Space Europe. Momentus and other startups pursuing SPAC mergers are encouraging Starburst Aerospace to raise its own investment fund. Credit: Made In Space Europe

SAN FRANCISCO – Made In Space Europe, a Redwire subsidiary, announced an agreement Sept. 1 with space transportation company Momentus to jointly develop a robotic spaceflight mission to launch in 2022.

Under the memorandum of understanding, the companies will mount a Made In Space robotic arm on a Momentus Vigoride transfer vehicle. With the robotic arm, Vigoride could grab onto a satellite in space to move it to a new orbit.

To date, Momentus has announced agreements with companies that plan to integrate their small satellites with Vigoride prior to launch. If Vigoride had a robotic arm, it could capture and move satellites in orbit prior to Vigoride or satellites traveling on the same launch vehicle but not fixed to Vigoride, Harrison Pitman, product development specialist for Luxembourg-based Made In Space Europe, said by email.

“To provide transportation services to these assets, a robotic arm is used to capture the external satellites before initiating transportation operations,” Pitman said. “Robotic arms are preferred to traditional docking methods as this enables a wider array of spacecraft to be serviced by Vigoride.”

The 2022 demonstration mission will show “how robotic arms can improve in-space transporation,” Jaroslaw Jaworski, Made In Space Europe general manager, said in a statement. “We are looking to critically evaluate the viability of these two highly advanced, commercial technologies working within a fully integrated system.”

Momentus also announced an agreement Sept. 2 to integrate two PocketPod deployers containing nine PocketQube spacecraft from Spain’s Fossa Systems with the second Vigoride demonstration mission scheduled to launch in February 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

PocketQubes are miniature spacecraft measuring five centimeters on a side. Like cubesats, multiple PocketQubes can be combined to create satellites of various sizes.

The PocketQubes Fossa plans to launch carry communications and Earth observation payloads, weather sensors and an experimental propulsion system.

Three Fossa PocketQubes are designed to provide Long-Range (LoRa) internet-of-things communications. LoRa is a low power wide area network protocol.

“FOSSA is very pleased to be partnering with Momentus in these initial steps, we are looking forward to working with Momentus to establish a stable low-cost orbital access service for the long-run,” Julian Fernandez, Fossa CEO, said in a statement.

Mikhail Kokorich, Momentus CEO, said in a statement the new partnership “demonstrates the versatility of the Vigoride shuttle service.”

Momentus previously signed a launch service agreement with British PocketQube manufacturer Alba Orbital. Vigoride missions carrying picosatellites “will pave the way for affordable constellations of picosatellites in the near future,” Momentus said in a Sept. 2 news release.

Debra Werner is a correspondent for SpaceNews based in San Francisco. Debra earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree...