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August 1st, 2019

Momentus and NanoRacks Plan First Commercial Airlock to Launch Smallsats From the ISS

In-space transportation startup Momentus has an agreement with NanoRacks to send the company's Vigoride smallsat shuttle customers into space through the NanoRack’s Bishop Airlock Module.

NanoRacks launches smallsats for customers from the International Space Station as well as from Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft. To offer space access for larger satellites seeking to fly off the space station, NanoRacks is developing the Bishop Airlock Module, which it plans to send to ISS in 2020. Once the Bishop Airlock is in place, Momentus will send its Vigoride customers into orbit through the commercial airlock, Momentus and NanoRacks announced August 5 at the Small Satellite Conference.

Momentus plans to conduct a test launch in 2020 of Vigoride, a shuttle to ferry payloads from one location in LEO to another, by sending a satellite into orbit through NanoRacks’ Kaber Microsat Deployer on the space station. Kaber sends satellites weighing about 82 kilograms or less from the Japanese Experimental Module airlock.

Momentus is raising money to begin operating a shuttle service with spacecraft powered by the firm’s proprietary water-plasma engines. Momentus launched its first water-plasma engine into orbit in July. The company has not announced any results. Momentus also raised $25.5 million in Series A funding in July.

Boeing is developing, manufacturing and preparing to install the Bishop airlock for NanoRacks. Thales Alenia Space is producing the airlock’s pressure shell, micrometeoroid orbital debris shields and various structural components.

NanoRacks and its partners are designing the Bishop airlock to work both on the International Space Station and on future commercial space stations. Bishop will have five times the volume of the Japanese airlock in addition to platforms for hosted payloads and pressurized research racks, according to the August 5 news release. NanoRacks plans to send the Bishop airlock to the space station in 2020 on SpaceX Commercial Resupply Service mission 21.

Momentus CEO Mikhail Kokorich said the firm is looking forward to a long and fruitful partnership with NanoRacks. The Momentus service offerings are complementary to that of NanoRacks, allowing their customers to go beyond the station to a higher altitude, prolonging their mission life.

NanoRacks CEO Jeffrey Manber added that this is exactly why NanoRacks chose to invest in the first-ever commercial airlock for the space station. Bishop is here to enable technology development and to further enhance the firm's customers’ abilities in space. Momentus is doing both.

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