PALO ALTO, Calif. – Plasmos has unveiled plans to offer space transportation and return payloads to Earth with a space truck.
The Space Truck, powered by Plasmos’ dual-mode propulsion system, will transport payloads to altitudes of up to 1,400 kilometers “to enable in-space manufacturing, last-mile delivery, point-to-point transport, in-orbit maintenance and active activation and removal of debris,” said Plamso CEO Ali Baghchehsara on Feb. 9 during the unveiling of the Plasmos space truck.
Various configurations of the 3D-printed space truck will travel to low Earth orbit as secondary payloads on the launch vehicle’s ESPA rings. (ESPA is short for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter.)
In the Flatbed configuration, the Space Truck can accommodate a 400-kilogram satellite. In the Musketeer configuration, the Space Truck has space for four 75-kilogram satellites and a six-kilogram payload that can remain in space or return to Earth. For in-orbit maintenance, Plasmos plans to offer the AAA Truck with robotic arms, satellite refueling and spacecraft maintenance equipment.
Plasmos will also offer precision re-entry, landing payloads in an area of one square kilometer, Baghchehsara said.
Plasmos’ plans to conduct its first technology demonstration flight in January 2024 have caught the attention of potential customers and partners, including the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU), which identifies commercial technology with military applications and the business Orbit Fab refueling service.
Ryan Weed, DIU Program Manager, praised Plasmos’ innovative propulsion system, which combines chemical and electrical propulsion elements.
“From a Department of Defense standpoint, we are interested in operating in space,” Weed said during the Plasmos event. “This no longer means just operating in low Earth orbit. This means that we need propulsion systems that can perform an order of magnitude or more better than our current propulsion systems. These hybrid propulsion systems and the spacecraft they enable would be a huge game changer in how we operate spacecraft in the Department of Defense and in the civilian world.”
Orbit Fab CEO Daniel Faber added that the ability to provide return transport for space payloads is “key” to developing a robust infrastructure in space.
Negar Feher, former vice president of business development at Momentus, said companies like Plasmos will help enable a future space economy with reliable transportation and powered by renewable and sustainable resources.
Jackie Space, co-founder and senior advisor at BMNT, a consulting firm focused on national security, said Plasmos has made impressive progress since the company was founded in 2021. Velo3D, a metal additive manufacturing startup known for its work with SpaceX and other launch vendors printed the first Plasmos space truck.
“You don’t typically see a full hardware impression of an early-stage startup,” Space said.
On its demonstration flight, Plasmos is offering transport to the RebelSat, a cubesat built by students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to test a cold gas aerospike thruster.