Momentus to rely on NanoRacks airlock for Vigoride shuttle

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LOGAN, Utah – In-space transportation startup Momentus announced an agreement with NanoRacks to send Momentus’ Vigoride small satellite shuttle customers into space through NanoRack’s Bishop Airlock Module.

“We are looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership with NanoRacks,” Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich, said in a statement. “The Momentus service offerings are complementary to that of NanoRacks, allowing their customers to go beyond the station to a higher altitude, prolonging their mission life.”

NanoRacks, a company founded in 2009 to spur commercial utilization of space, launches cubesats and microsatellites for customers from the International Space Station as well as from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft. To offer space access for larger satellites seeking to fly off the space station, NanoRacks is developing the Bishop Airlock Module, which it plans to send to ISS in 2020.

Once the Bishop Airlock is in place, Momentus will send its Vigoride customers into orbit through the commercial airlock, Momentus and NanoRacks announced Aug. 5 at the Small Satellite Conference here.

“This is exactly why NanoRacks chose to invest in the first-ever commercial airlock for the space station,” NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber, said in a statement. “Bishop is here to enable technology development and to further enhance our customers’ abilities in space. Momentus is doing both.”

Momentus plans to conduct a test launch in 2020 of Vigoride, a shuttle to ferry payloads from one location in low Earth orbit to another, by sending a satellite into orbit through NanoRacks’ Kaber Microsat Deployer on the space station. Kaber sends satellites weighing about 82 kilograms or less out of the Japanese Experimental Module airlock.

Momentus is raising money to begin operating a shuttle service with spacecraft powered by the firm’s proprietary water-plasma engines. Momentus launched its first water-plasma engine into orbit in July. The company has not announced any results. Momentus also raised $25.5 million in Series A funding in July.

Boeing is developing, manufacturing and preparing to install the Bishop airlock for NanoRacks. Thales Alenia Space is producing the airlock’s pressure shell, micrometeoroid orbital debris shields and various structural components.

NanoRacks and its partners are designing the Bishop airlock to work both on the International Space Station and on future commercial space stations. Bishop will have five times the volume of the Japanese airlock in addition to platforms for hosted payloads and pressurized research racks, according to the Aug. 5 news release.

NanoRacks plans to send the Bishop airlock to the space station in 2020 on SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission 21.