Artist's rendering of Momentus Vigoride moving a satellite to a new location in low Earth orbit. Credit: Momentus

SAN FRANCISCO – Silicon Valley startup Momentus announced a contract June 4 with OrbAstro, a small United Kingdom company developing hardware and software to enable satellites to operate in flocks or constellations.

Under the contract, Momentus, a firm developing in-space transportation services, will fly a three-unit OrbAstro cubesat on a SpaceX Falcon 9 dedicated rideshare mission scheduled for launch in 2021. Momentus plans to enclose the OrbAstro cubesat in its Vigoride orbit transfer vehicle for the Falcon 9 launch. At the conclusion of the Falcon 9 flight, Vigoride will transport the OrbAstro cubesat to a higher altitude.

Through the mission, OrbAstro plans to demonstrate a variety of technologies including an UltraScale+ high-performance computer coupled with a constellation management system based on an artificial neural network, a novel electrical power system, a compact attitude determination and control system, and a new thermal management system.

After the in-orbit demonstration, OrbAstro plans to launch its own cluster of formation flying nanosatellites to test remaining technologies the firm is developing, before focusing on the needs of larger constellations, Ash Dove-Jay, OrbAstro founder and CEO, said in a statement.

Momentus, based in Santa Clara, California, plans to conduct the first test flight this year of its Vigoride orbit transfer vehicle.

“We are excited to see OrbAstro working on developing key technologies that could really enable flocks of satellites to be in close proximity of each other,” Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich said in a statement. “In the future, this [technology] may enable Momentus to do rendezvous and proximity operations for refueling, satellite servicing, repositioning and more.”

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 in Journalism from Northwestern University. She...