Momentus receives approvals for first tug launch

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WASHINGTON — In-space transportation company Momentus has secured all the regulatory approvals for its first mission, set to launch later this month.

The company announced May 5 it passed a payload review by the Federal Aviation Administration required for the commercial launch of its orbital transfer vehicle on SpaceX’s Transporter-5 mission, scheduled for launch in late May from Cape Canaveral, Florida. The company earlier obtained a Federal Communications Commission communications license and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration remote sensing license for cameras on the tug.

The payload review is a major milestone for Momentus because the company failed to secure FAA payload reviews on two occasions last year for Vigoride tugs on earlier Transporter launches. Federal agencies raised national security concerns in that payload review process about the company’s Russian co-founders.

That led Momentus, which at the time was going public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger, to buy out those co-founders and sign a national security agreement with the federal government outlining steps it would take to address those concerns, such as modernizing its information technology systems.

“We welcome these decisions by the relevant U.S. government agencies that clear the way for Momentus to conduct its inaugural launch of the Vigoride spacecraft,” John Rood, chief executive of Momentus, said in a statement.

In an earnings call March 8, Rood said the company had a “tight” schedule to get the Vigoride 3 tug ready for a launch then scheduled for June, citing both payload approvals as well as completing work on the spacecraft. However, Momentus announced May 6 that it delivered the hardware for the mission to Cape Canaveral for integration onto the Falcon 9 for the Transporter-5 launch.

Momentus said two customers, FOSSA Systems and Orbit NTNU, will have payloads on the tug. The company also acquired a payload dispenser from another company that will fly on Transporter-5, carrying a cubesat from a student group at Cal Poly Pomona and four other unnamed payloads.

The company says the primary purpose of the mission is to test the Vigoride tug, which is designed to move to different orbits and deploy payloads. The mission will also generate “a small amount of revenue,” the company said. Momentus is scheduled to release its first quarter financial results after the markets close May 10.