2026 Space Tug by Impulse Space

2026 Space Tug by Impulse Space

Impulse Space has x-SpaceX founders and has $45 million of funding to develop space tugs that would move payloads to higher orbits. Founded in 2021, Impulse Space is providing agile, economical space logistics services. With a near-term focus on Low Earth Orbit (LEO), services include in-space transportation to custom orbits, in-space payload hosting and space asset repositioning services including deorbiting. Long-term, Impulse will offer services for all classes of payloads to distant destinations such as Geostationary Equatorial Orbit (GEO), the Moon, and Mars.

Tom Mueller, chief executive of Impulse Space and one of the founding employees of SpaceX, said Helios wants to extend the capabilities of vehicles like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 to higher orbits.

“SpaceX really got the party started by opening up access to LEO,” Tom Mueller said in an interview. “What Impulse wants to do is what SpaceX did for LEO, but for everything else, all the other high-energy orbits.”

Helios would serve as an additional stage for the Falcon 9. It would transport satellites to GEO in less than 24 hours. It would move two-thirds of the mass capability of a Falcon Heavy launching to GEO by using a Falcon 9.

From 2017 to early 2022, the SpaceX Falcon Heave price was US$150 million for 63.8 t (141,000 lb) to LEO or 26.7 t (59,000 lb) to GTO (fully expendable). This equates to a price of US$2,350 per kg to LEO and US$5,620 per kg to GTO. In 2022, a reusable Falcon Heavy launch was $97 million. This reduces the prices to $1600 per kg to LEO and $4200 per kg to GTO.

It costs about $56m-62 million for Falcon 9 flight. If satellite was 5-22 tons and the Helios only chaged about $20 million then your mission to GEO would be cheaper using Falcon 9 and Helios versus Falcon Heavy.

The stage will be powered by an engine called Deneb, producing 15,000 pounds-force of thrust. Mueller said the engine components have passed a preliminary design review, and the company is on track to begin engine tests in the summer.

The first flight of Helios is planned for early 2026, with initial plans to fly the vehicle four to six times a year. Impulse has a letter of intent with an undisclosed customer and positive conversations with other potential users

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