Vast, Impulse to Partner on Space Station

Vast, Impulse to Partner on Space Station
Orbit: Rendering of the Vast Haven-1 space station.

Vast, a company developing artificial gravity space stations out of Long Beach, has selected Redondo Beach-based startup Impulse Space to provide the propulsion system for Haven-1, the first commercial space station.

The space station is scheduled to launch on a Space Exploration Technology Corp. Falcon 9 rocket in August 2025. The propulsion system, designed by Impulse Space, will maintain Haven-1’s position in orbit and ultimately push its deorbit for end-of-life operations. The company’s selection comes just one month after Impulse Space announced a proprietary thruster is ready for space travel.

“Our qualified Saiph thruster is a perfect fit for Haven-1’s propulsion requirements,” Tom Mueller, founder and chief executive of Impulse Space, said in a statement. “We look forward to collaborating with such a dedicated and like-minded team.”

Impulse Space has three other missions underway — including partnerships with Long Beach-based Relativity Space and in-space refueling startup OrbitFab. According to Barry Matsumori, Impulse Space’s chief operating officer, the company has no plans to expand its workforce to support the addition of Haven-1’s development.

“The propulsion system we’re creating is relying on the same thruster that we’ve already designed,” Matsumori said.

Vast and Impulse Space, both founded in 2021, began operations across the street from each other in El Segundo. As of 2022, Impulse Space had raised $30 million in funding to create “economical” in-space logistics services with propulsion systems pioneering orbital-maneuvering capabilities.

Vast observed Impulse Space’s technology powering payload transportation between orbits and recognized its ability to steer its commercial space station. The Haven-1’s tight two-year deadline pushed Vast to contract out the space craft’s subsystems to stay on schedule.

“To support our goal to launch Haven-1 in just over two years and become the world’s first commercial space station, we decided to partner on multiple subsystems to increase the likelihood of meeting our timeline with full mission success,” Jed McCaleb, founder and chief executive of Vast, said in a statement.

McCaleb is funding the Haven-1 mission and a subsequent Vast-1 mission, which is slated to be the first independent human spaceflight mission to dock at the station for up to 30 days. According to Matsumori, the partnership only outlines subsystem contracting for the Haven-1 launch as of now.

While aerospace companies rapidly inundated the South Bay commercial sector in the past decade, continued investment remains risky, with many startups not showing profits or positive cash flow. Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc., founded by billionaire Richard Branson and operating out of Long Beach, filed for bankruptcy in April after a failed launch derailed long-term investment interest. The company went public with a $2 billion valuation two years prior.

Vast was one of three local aerospace companies to make a winning bid for Virgin Orbit assets in May. The company bid $2.7 million for a Mojave Desert test site with machinery, equipment and inventory included.

Both Vast and Impulse Space are seeking long-term profitability by building the infrastructure for in-space commercial operations. While the Haven-1 could set a precedent for privatized outposts in orbit, ultimately generating money from space logistics is still years away from catching up to the earth-to-space satellite launch business model.

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