The head of an American Space Company cannot use its Technologies because of Russian Citizenship
The founder of the American company Momentus Space, Mikhail Kokorich, cannot work with his technologies in the United States. Since 2017, Momentus Space has been developing a “last mile” transport system for satellites being placed into orbit. The technology uses a new water plasma engine.
However, Kokorich cannot use this technology in the United States. The fact is that space technologies in US legislation are defined as “dual-use” technologies with the possibility of civil and military application. Representatives of foreign countries do not have access to it. Kokorich holds Russian citizenship.
Momentus itself is set to go public on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in 2021 with a SPAC created by Stable Road Capital. The company is valued at $1.2 billion.
This issue was raised in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Stable Road acquisition process. Kokorich has been trying to get permission to accept his chief technology officer since early 2018, but to no avail.
In 2018, US authorities already forced Kokoric to relinquish ownership of another space company, Astro Digital. It failed the foreign influence test. Then the investigation became interested in Kokorich’s access to satellite technology.
By law, it can only be used by citizens or permanent residents of the United States. There were no charges, but since then the businessman “is not allowed to access controlled technology or Momentus equipment that contains certain technical information.”
At the same time, foreigners can work in companies that have access to “dual-use” technologies. They can also invest in these technologies if the US Committee on Foreign Investment approves this measure.
So Kokorich needs to get permission to work with the technology by obtaining a license or applying for political asylum in the United States.
Steps have already been taken in the first direction. In 2019, Momentus hired K&L Gates to lobby for a spacecraft export license.
However, the contract was terminated in July 2020, but a recent SEC filing states that Momentus is still looking into ways to obtain a license.
This has been done previously by another private space company, Virgin Galactic, which successfully passed the SPAC in 2019.
Obtaining asylum can be problematic. Kokorich founded Dauria Aerospace, “Russia’s first commercial space company”, in 2011 to develop small satellites for Roscosmos. Two Dauria spacecraft were lost during a failed launch in 2017.
Roscosmos won the legal dispute over who was responsible for the error. The claim amounted to $4.7 million, and the payment of this money, apparently, led to the bankruptcy of the Russian company.
Kokorich sold his stake in the company and moved to the United States in 2015 when the Russian Investigative Committee opened a fraud case related to Dauria Aerospace.
In 2018, Kokorich founded the Astro Digital investment fund, in which Vadim Makhov, the former head of the OMZ Group, a Russian industrial conglomerate controlled by Gazprombank, invested.
At one time, one of the founders and main investors of Momentus Space was Lev Khasis, one of the top managers of Sberbank. Later, part of it was transferred to his wife. Meanwhile, Gazprombank and Sberbank are under US sanctions.