Russian co-founders out of Momentus

WASHINGTON — In-space transportation company Momentus says its Russian co-founders are now “completely divested” from the company as it reaches a national security agreement with federal agencies.

In a June 9 statement, Momentus said it had signed a national security agreement (NSA) with the Defense and Treasury Departments, which outlines the steps the company will take to address security concerns that held up the first launches of its space tugs.

That includes having the company’s Russian co-founders, Mikhail Kokorich and Lev Khasis, sell their stakes in the company. “Our co-founders are completely divested from the company as of today, helping to resolve a primary point of the government’s concern,” said Dawn Harms, chief executive of Momentus, in the statement.

Momentus had been working since early this year to resolve issues raised by the Defense Department about its Russian ownership. Harms took over as chief executive in January when Kokorich stepped down as part of what the company called “an effort to expedite the resolution of U.S. government national security and foreign ownership concerns.”

In March, Momentus announced that Kokorich and Brainyspace LLC, the company owned by Khasis and his wife, had put their shares into a voting trust and would divest them within three years. The move, the company said, was in response to correspondence from the Defense Department in January “stating Momentus posed a risk to national security as a result of the foreign ownership and control of Momentus by Mikhail Kokorich and Lev Khasis and their associated entities.”

By this time, Momentus had already missed an initial opportunity to launch its first tug, Vigoride-1, on SpaceX’s Transporter-1 rideshare mission in January. The company said it could not complete a payload review by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation in time to make that launch.

Momentus had hoped to launch Vigoride-1 on SpaceX’s Transporter-2 mission later this month along with a larger tug, Vigoride-2. However, the company announced May 11 that the FAA denied the company’s application for a payload review “based on the FAA’s finding that its launch would jeopardize U.S. national security.”

The company also disclosed in April that Lockheed Martin had dropped Momentus from a NASA-funded technology demonstration mission awarded to Lockheed in October 2020. Neither company said if the move was related to the national security concerns the Defense Department had raised about Momentus.

Momentus said it will now focus on implementing terms of the national security agreement. Those include increased security measures and hiring people to provide additional oversight. The company will also add to its board a director appointed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) charged with confirming Momentus’ compliance with terms of the agreement.

The company believes that doing so will allow it to overcome those past obstacles to launching its first tugs. “Once the NSA’s measures are implemented, we will renew our efforts to expeditiously obtain governmental approvals to clear our path to flight,” Harms said.

Those national security issues were also a complication for its efforts to complete a merger with Stable Road Acquisition Corporation, a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). The firms announced the merger in October 2020, providing Momentus with $310 million in cash and valuing it at $1.2 billion.

Stable Road was facing a May 13 deadline to complete the deal or else liquidate the SPAC. Shareholders narrowly approved a three-month extension of that deadline to Aug. 13.

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