Mikhail Kokorich Once Again is Unable to Operate in the US
Russian space developer and entrepreneur Mikhail Kokorich is blocked from the very innovations his company depends on. Is this yet another failed space company Kokorich will need to divest himself from?
The US Block Russian Mikhail Kokorich from Accessing Key Technology
Russian businessman and scientist Mikhail Kokorich has faced consistent barriers to working on the US technology. And now, on the eve of his company going public, he is once again blocked from access to the very innovations his products depend on. A November 2nd filing has decided that Kokorich will not be able to work with any dual-use US technology, raising questions about the future of his company, Momentus. A Special Purpose Acquisition Company, or SPAC
, has been used to make Momentus possible to go public next year at $1.2 billion, but given the company’s dependence on Russian investment and on Kokorich himself, it’s clear that it will face difficulties.
Dual-Use Tech Blocked from Kokorich
Momentus has been working on ‘last stage’ water-based propulsion technology used in launching satell
ites. However, it has been dependent on US innovations, which fall under the dual-use category. This means that they are regarded as having potential military applications. The US government refuses to risk such technology falling into the hands of its geopolitical rivals. And, considering current relations with Russia and Kokorich’s history in this area, it’s unsurprising that they will not give him access.
Canopus Folds after 2 Years of Problems
Kokorich’s work in the US began in 2012, with the founding of Canopus. As a joint venture with qualified American scientists, Canopus was able to function for a few years and launched two satellites in 2014. However, a number of factors combined to end Canopus at the end of that year. The company used investment from Rusnano Capital, a Russian state-backed investment venture. This, combined with the Russian annexation of Crimea that year, created difficult circumstances. CEO Tomas Svitek states that his discomfort at receiving so much money from the Russian state led to a deterioration in relations with Kokorich. This reached its climax at the end of the year when Kokorich fired Svitek and effectively created a new company - Astro Digital.
Kokorich Lawsuit and Review Failures
Problems continued despite the rebranding. First, the Committee for Foreign Investment in the US held two reviews of Astro Digital, which it failed each time. Then, in 2018, a lawsuit filed by Dmitri Kushaev accused Kokorich of fraudulently redirecting $10 million in investment from its actual venture to Astro Digital. Faced with so many issues, Kokorich left the company in 2018, focusing solely on Momentus.
Kokorich has consistently tried to paint himself as a friend of the opposition in Russia. However, it’s clear that much of his money over the years has come straight from companies connected to the state. First, the Rusnano Capital investment that caused conflict at Canopus. And more recently, the money Momentus is currently receiving from figures connected to both Gazprom and Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. His only path to accessing US technology lies in either citizenship or gaining an export license. It’s clear that the CFIUS will not let Kokorich access US technology under any circumstances. It also seems clear that he has no chance of either a license or citizenship. As a result, the situation of Momentus in the US does not seem to be a good one.