by Jeff Foust —
WASHINGTON — Six months after including it on the team that was a NASA technology contract, Lockheed Martin has quietly dropped in-space transportation company Momentus from that project.
Lockheed was one of 14 companies that received Tipping Point awards from NASA in October 2020 to demonstrate key technologies needed for sustainable lunar exploration. Lockheed’s award was the largest single contract, valued at $89.7 million, to test liquid hydrogen storage technologies on a small satellite.
In its own statement about the contract, Lockheed Martin said it was working with several companies to develop and fly the mission. Those partners included Momentus, who would integrate the payload on its Vigoride transfer vehicle that would then be launched in October 2023 on Relativity Space’s Terran 1 small launch vehicle.
However, in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing April 7, Momentus disclosed that Lockheed Martin had dropped Momentus from that contract. “Lockheed Martin decided not to proceed with Momentus as their partner for the NASA Tipping Point contract,” the company said.
Momentus did not explain in the filing why Lockheed ended their partnership, and a company spokesperson declined to provide additional details. Lockheed Martin told SpaceNews that it is “committed to executing the NASA Cryogenic Demonstration Mission for NASA as we make final decisions on suppliers.”
Momentus said in the SEC filing that while it lost its role on the Tipping Point contract, “Lockheed has indicated that this action will not impact its ability to do business with Momentus in the future and Momentus currently has another contract with Lockheed.” The company didn’t identify that contract, but Lockheed Martin is cooperating with the University of Southern California on a cubesat program whose first mission will be launched on a Vigoride vehicle.
The loss of the Tipping Point partnership is a further complication for a company that is facing several government reviews while also working to complete a merger with a special-purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Stable Road Acquisition Corporation, announced in October.
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.
Momentus sought to address those concerns in March, when it announced both former chief executive Mikhail Kokorich and Brainyspace LLC, a firm owned by co-founder Lev Khasis and his wife, had placed their shares of the company into a voting trust and would divest them within three years. That came after Kokorich stepped down as chief executive in January.
The company is still in a voluntary review of its ownership structure by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), prompted by those Defense Department concerns that the delayed the FAA approval. The company noted in the filing that it is willing to enter into a “mitigation agreement” with the government as part of the CFIUS review to resolve any national security concerns.
In the same filing, Momentus said that the SEC is performing its own investigation of “certain disclosures” involving the planned merger of Momentus with Stable Road Acquisition Corporation. That review will delay the completion of the merger, assuming shareholders approve it. Stable Road has until May 13 to complete a deal, but is asking its shareholders to approve a three-month extension. Shareholders will vote May 6 to approve that extension.
The investigations and delays have had some effect on the company’s backlog of customers. Momentus said that two customers for that first Vigoride mission opted not to fly with the company after the January delay and a lack of assurances that the mission will launch in June. Another customer encountered what Momentus called a “a technical issue with its satellite manufacturer that caused it to rebook on a mission with another provider.” The cumulative effect of those actions, including Lockheed’s decision not to partner with Momentus, is less than $5 million, the company stated.
Momentus added that its efforts to address its foreign ownership issues is starting to pay off. “Mr. Kokorich’s departure, and the resolution of the U.S. government’s national security concerns relating to his control and ownership, could present new opportunities for Momentus,” it stated. “For example, Momentus has seen increased interest from potential customers with security clearances who previously had expressed reluctance to engage with Momentus, however, such interest is preliminary and may not result in any definitive contracts or definitive commitments or any revenue for Momentus.”