Capitalism in space: The orbit tug company Momentus appears to be losing some of its contracts because of security concerns that have delayed FAA approvals of its launch licenses and forced the cancellation of flights.
The company delayed the launch of its first Vigoride vehicle, which was to fly on a SpaceX rideshare mission in January, because it could not complete a payload review by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation in time. Momentus said that the FAA could not approve the payload “due to national security and foreign ownership concerns regarding Momentus raised by the DoD during an interagency review.”
Momentus now hopes to launch that first Vigoride mission on another Falcon 9 rideshare mission in June. The company said the FAA is still working on that interagency review that is being held open by the Defense Department. The review needs to be completed by the end of May for the company to keep its slot on that June launch.
The company has also lost a contract with Lockheed Martin, which though the reasons have not been stated probably relates to the same issue.
That issue apparently is the company’s former chief executive Mikhail Kokorich and its co-founder Lev Khasis and his wife. To address these concerns, Kokorich has stepped down, and the Khasis have put their shares in the company in a voting trust and will divest them within three years.
All does not appear lost however. Momentus Vigoride tug is presently the only option available for cubesats that need an upper stage to move them to different orbits, and it appears that neither Lockheed Martin nor its other customers are entirely abandoning it. They are simply playing safe, standing back, and waiting until the security issues are resolved and the FAA gives its approval.
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