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Space transportation company Momentus Inc will be the next publicly listed space company after an agreement was struck with a US-listed cash shell. 

The California-based company, which specialises in shuttling satellites from rockets to their intended orbits, also known as a ‘space tugboat’ service, will reverse into cash shell Stable Road Capital.

Stable Road, which is what is called a special purpose acquisition acquisition company (SPAC) in the US, said the deal valued Momentus at US$1.2bn in an announcement on Wednesday.

Last year, Virgin Galactic floated using a SPAC called Social Capital Hedosophia

Stable Road has also had talks over potentially raising extra cash as part of the deal, Bloomberg reported.

A deal could be concluded early next year, the SPAC said in the statement, with Momentus listed on the Nasdaq with the ticker symbol ‘MNTS’.

“We believe it is primed to be a leader in the rapidly growing new space economy. As the only public, pure-play commercial space company capable of revolutionizing space infrastructure, Momentus is poised to capitalize on its market-defining position,” said Stable Road chairman and CEO Brian Kabot.

How Momentus works

As a ‘space tug’, the company is one of a few that have sprung up in recent years offering ‘last mile’ delivery in space for satellites and other space cargo.

Its current contracts involve satellites that are being carried into space on Uber-like rideshares offered by rocket companies, with its first ‘tug’ being launched aboard SpaceX’s first SmallSat Rideshare.

Rideshares on big rockets are more cost-effective for small satellite operators but like an aeroplane or coach, will generally drop all their various customers off some way from their final destination, which requires a further taxi ride.

As Momentus founder Mikhail Kokorich has said: “You can fly from San Francisco to Atlanta, but you cannot fly to Charlotte.”

Having been launched into space, Momentus says its tugs will use three times less propellant to deliver satellites and cargo to their target orbits using water plasma propulsion technology, and will complete trips faster by having more thrust per unit of electrical power supplied than systems using ion drives or other types of conventional electric propulsion.

“Due to the simplicity of our propulsion system, water tank, and feed systems, Momentus’ vehicles will be extremely inexpensive to manufacture. We expect to be able to pass those savings on to our customers,” it says on its website.

Two of Momentus’s existing contracts are booked onto a SpaceX Falcon-9 rideshare: one to provide space transportation for a small ‘constellation’ of satellites and the other to deploy a test microsatellite.

It has been suggested that space tugboats could help tidy up the mass of space junk, like disused satellites and launch vehicles.