We’re thrilled to announce that the spacecraft for Momentus’ first orbital mission has completed integration and test with our partners at AstroDigital and is ready to fly. We are planning to ship to the launch vehicle integrator in a matter of days.
On this mission we will be the first to fly a microwave electrothermal plasma rocket in space to prove the technical feasibility of our high performance water rockets. We are naming this mission El Camino Real after the the 600 mile road built by the Spanish between 1683 and 1834 that made the settlement of California possible. The Momentus propulsion team did a fantastic job developing the propulsion flight hardware for El Camino Real in just months in partnership with our spacecraft integrators at AstroDigital.
With El Camino Real being our first flight mission, this is a good opportunity to explain how we will be naming our missions. To emphasize that we are a transportation services company and not a company that sells hardware, our missions will be named after famous roads, trade routes, or natural geographic features that either currently play an important part in transportation or did so historically. Every first of a kind mission we fly will be named after the first road, bridge, or waterway that humanity built in a given area to aid transportation to enable commerce or settlement.
The purpose of El Camino Real will be to flight demonstrate our core propulsion technology so customers, investors, and stakeholders can have absolute confidence that when they sign up for a Momentus Space service, it will be on time, safe and reliable. We will be flying our high performance X-Band (10 GHz) microwave electrothermal thruster with enough water propellant that we will be able to run the thruster long enough to fully characterize its performance in space with dozens of stop start cycles and then safely de-orbit the vehicle.
In the picture you can see the 16U CubeSat spacecraft we will be flying the propulsion system on during its glow test at AstroDigital. If you look carefully in the picture you can see that the solar cells on one panel of the spacecraft are glowing red. This happens in the glow test when the team runs power backwards through the cells to prove they are not cracked or faulty. Normally a solar cell converts light to electricity. When you run it backwards, it converts electricity to light glows. Cool!
We will be flying our technology demonstration of water based microwave electrothermal propulsion on a CubeSat even though the in space rockets, or orbit transfer vehicles, we are building are bigger than that and can carry many CubeSats on a single mission. El Camino Real is flying on a CubeSat because it is the most cost effective way to do this key technology demonstration.
The Momentus propulsion team worked incredibly hard to bring El Camino Real to flight readiness. We went from a rough conceptual design to flight hardware in just six months. Stay tuned for more updates as we move forward with this flight and the development of our Vigoride in-space transportation service in the coming months.