LOGAN, Utah — In-space transportation company Momentus is now offering a version of its Vigoride tug as a satellite bus for commercial and government customers.

The company announced Aug. 2 that it was now offering customers a bus called the M-1000. The bus is similar to the Vigoride orbital transfer vehicle that Momentus has flown three times so far, but without the water-based propulsion system it uses for changing orbits.

The bus emerged from limitations flying hosted payloads on Vigoride, which remain attached to the tug rather than deployed as satellites. Rob Schwarz, chief technology officer at Momentus, said in an interview that the company started gauging interest a year ago in hosted payloads on Vigoride, including from U.S. government agencies.

“What we’re finding is that a lot of government customers don’t really want to borrow the bus and lease it, but instead they want to own it,” he said. “Also, in some cases, because of the sensitivity of the payloads they don’t want to share it with other users.”

That led Momentus to instead consider a version of Vigoride that would be a satellite bus sold to customers instead of provided as a service. It uses many of the same subsystems, like avionics and power, as Vigoride. Changes include improved pointing and options for third-party chemical and electric propulsion systems.

Schwarz said the M-1000 can accommodate between 350 and 800 kilograms of payload, depending on how the spacecraft is launched. It generates one kilowatt of orbit average power for the payload, with a peak of three kilowatts.

Options like improved pointing and propulsion are offered through a modular approach to customize the bus for each customer. “The idea is to have all of these enhancements to the system that can be plugged in,” he said, like modifying a PC. “The goal is to get to a custom configuration of the spacecraft to the customer within a year.”

Momentus has not signed any contracts for the M-1000 yet. The company did offer it to the Space Force’s Space Development Agency for its Tranche 2 Transport Layer Alpha program of 50 satellites. Those proposals were due to SDA in July.

Schwarz said he expects to see both government and commercial interest in M-1000. Government customers would likely be more interested in the modularity aspects of the bus to support special services, he predicted, while commercial customers are attracted by the projected rapid production schedule. He said the M-1000 should also be competitive on price, but did not disclose specific pricing for the bus.

Momentus plans to produce the M-1000 bus at the same facility where it builds Vigoride vehicles. That is sufficient for building up to 50 buses per year, and Schwarz said the company is exploring options for a dedicated factory if there is greater demand.

Momentus continues to offer Vigoride tugs. The next tug, Vigoride-7, is scheduled to launch on the SpaceX Transporter-10 rideshare mission in early 2024. The vehicle was scheduled to launch on Transporter-9 in October, but the company pushed the mission back so it can fly with “a fuller load of payloads for deployment in LEO with better mission economics,” the company said in a July 28 statement.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...