Why shake, bake, and shock? Momentus has been working tirelessly since our founding a year ago to develop an in-space transportation service that is the most affordable, reliable, scalable, and efficient solution for our customers. We delivered our first flight hardware, Momentus Flight Experiment 1, or MX-1, Thanksgiving week after a development effort that went from concept to qualified flight hardware in just four months. MX-1 will flight demonstrate the Vigor microwave electrothermal thruster (MET) that will be the main engine on our Vigoride in-space rocket. MX-1 eliminates the primary technical risk associated with our Vigoride in-space ride service. This delivery was a critical step in preparation for launch which will be on a Soyuz rocket in March of 2019. We developed MX-1 rapidly but methodically, with each component tested at the unit, system, and assembly level to assure success but with no time lost.
Someone from outside of the space industry might wonder, why all this testing? Can’t you just release an alpha version and then follow it up with beta? That would be great, but it’s just not realistic today. Such an approach would require infrastructure in space that just does not yet exist. The only satellite thus far to have been serviced in space was the Hubble Space Telescope over a decade ago and we haven’t made much progress in satellite servicing since. Today, if your satellite doesn’t work in orbit, it’s just space junk. Numerous startups and companies are working on making autonomous satellite servicing a reality using robotics, magnetics, and other game changing technologies, but so far nothing is ready for use.
To be successful, satellites must survive a rigorous set of steps to simulate the harsh space and launch environments. These steps include vacuum baking and freezing, slamming the system with hammers, and violently shaking them. I’m proud to say that our systems have been shaken, baked, and even shocked without failing! It was quite a challenge to develop a system that can withstand all of this and to do it in a matter of a few months, but our team not only did it, but also developed robust new methods and processes for building space hardware. For example we used 3-D printing technology in a new way to increase thermal efficiency and obtain internal geometries impossible with traditional CNC machines for our water vaporizer. This prevented overheating and a meltdown under the thermal extremes of space.
In the future, when infrastructure is available in space, some of these tests will become less crucial, but today we still live in a world where every component, system and satellite must be tested and verified. At Momentus, our goal is to become the de facto provider for “connecting flights” between orbits. This is a game-changing time for the space industry, and Momentus is leading the way by bringing last-mile logistics and well tested services to the space market.
VP of Product Strategy and Business Development