In 2016 Jim Cantrell and group of veteran space professionals started Vector Space Systems. Their goal? Nothing less than than building a small satellite launch company capable of launching upwards of 100 small satellites a year from at least three spaceports.
The Vector Advantage
Jim Cantrell is the CEO and one the founders of Vector Space Systems. I spoke with Jim at length about Vector and their plans. You can listen to the full podcast below.
Some of the highlights of the interview include a company which has just closed its Series A round of funding from Sequoia Capital with participation from Shasta Ventures and Lightspeed for $21 million and having raised just over $31 million in its first year.
The company had a head start though, having purchased Garvey Spacecrafts with its heritage of 15 years of rocket development. John Garvey became one of the founders and Chief Technology Officer.
The company has already completed a block 0 test of a full scale version of the Vector-R rocket, the smaller of the two currently planned launch vehicles. That test went well except for the recovery shute having failed. The company plans another sub-orbital test in August from Camden, Georgia, which is in the process of being certified by the State as a spaceport.
Vector will start doing orbital test flights next year and said it was on track to launch its first customer payloads in 2019.
The smaller of the launch vehicles, Vector-R, will cost $1.5 million while the Vector-H will cost $3 million. An optional third stage is available for both at a cost of $500k to $1 million depending on needs.
To be successful Cantrell said the company will need to develop a rapid assembly line factory to churn out the rockets to meet their goals of launching at least 100 times a year. Some of those satellites being launched will include their own Galactic Sky satellites which will be used to build an “Amazon Web Services” type of constellation in low earth orbit for companies to runt their “space apps”. Satellites as a Service is coming soon it seems.
The company plans on launching from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska for polar and Sun Synchronous orbits and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for low inclination orbits. They will also need another spaceport and are looking at the future Camden Spaceport and even Canada, where a new spaceport may start construction as early as next spring. At some point the company also plans on going public.
Sweet success @vectorspacesys !!!!! pic.twitter.com/SZ4G1FJgmP
— Jim Cantrell (@jamesncantrell) May 3, 2017
If this isn’t the coolest damned angle for a rocket shot then I don’t know what is. @vectorspacesys Vector-R B0.1 first launch today #space pic.twitter.com/rd3Tt33JH4
— Jim Cantrell (@jamesncantrell) May 3, 2017
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Very exciting new company! Again, entrepreneurs make it happen!
Vector seems to be a company that can develop more headlines than rocket launches. If Garvey’s technology was so advanced, where’s their rocket launch above 100,000 feet? Or 10,000 feet? That 8 second video of the last launch was surely something Camden and Canada should bank on. Plans (Dreams) are important for entrepreneurs, but don’t ask taxpayers to speculate with you by building you a spaceport.
As far as I know Vector has not asked for any money from the Canadian government. And if they did it would be highly unlikely the government would consider it. Their best bet in Canada is to come to agreement with Maritime Launch Services for shared use of their Nova Scotia spaceport if it gets built. As to Camden, whatever deal is in place there is between the parties and the State and the public.
There is no Camden deal because there is no spaceport and Vector is not yet a space company. Both are wannabes that need each other to maintain the hype about their efforts. They have ‘negotiated’ a sub-scale, sub-orbital “test” flight this summer from Camden. Maybe even from the site that Camden does not yet own. Or from the County landfill.
Camden has invested >$4 million so far and are waiting for the Draft EIS. 2 years and counting. No one really knows what they’ve applied to launch since they have kept their application a secret. (The secrecy is claimed under a Georgia State exemption for documents related to pending real estate transactions)
Camden officials have hyped the spaceport potential by dangling names like SpaceX, Blue Origin, Firefly, XCOR, and now Vector. Had SpaceX or BO wanted the Camden property, they could have picked it up for pocket-change. Firefly and XCOR are no more. So it comes down to Vector, Rocket Lab, ARCA, Rocket Crafters, etc.
My point is that it is extremely risky for taxpayers when companies are made to seem larger than life while gullible local officials see a glimmer of jobs and prosperity.
Ok, so you don’t support Camden with taxpayer money. Nothing wrong with you expressing that point of view. However, Vector is space company with resources including private investment funding and if you listened to the podcast you would learn more about that and their plans.