Capitalism in space: The private space company Spaceflight yesterday announced the development of a new upgraded tug for moving small satellites from their launched orbit to their operational locations, including locations in orbit around the Moon.
Spaceflight announced the first flight of its Sherpa-LTE orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) will take place in mid-2021. The vehicle is based on the next-generation Sherpa-FX tug announced in the summer, but equipped with the Apollo Constellation Engine, a Hall effect thruster provided by Apollo Fusion.
With that propulsion system, Sherpa-LTE will be able to generate a change in velocity, or delta-V, of more than 6 kilometers per second. That will allow the vehicle to deliver smallsats to geostationary Earth orbit, cislunar space, or Earth-escape trajectories after a launch into low Earth orbit.
Spaceflight is a direct competitor with Momentus, which already has contracts with several satellite companies for its in-space tug services. Nor is this competition bad. This new cottage industry of tugs helps focus innovation. Satellite companies can focus on improving their satellites, while buying the propulsion from tug companies who can provide that technology best.
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