Tag Archives: Vector-R

Vector suborbital rocket test scrubbed

A suborbital test flight of Vector’s orbital rocket was scrubbed on April 6 when a sensor aborted the launch.

The next test flight is scheduled for May 3, after a test April 6 at the company’s test site near the Mohave Desert was scrubbed when a sensor caused an automatic abort, Cantrell said.

Engineers quickly determined the rocket was functional but the company decided not to launch after high winds kicked up. But the rocket is fine, he said, adding that failures are part of the testing process. “We blew a lot of stuff up, trust me,” he said.

The article is more focused on describing in detail the company’s overall status, its fund-raising effort, its future plans, its present operation. This tidbit about the test launch was buried in it. That the flight didn’t fly is not a bad mark on the company, at this point. However, they are under pressure to fly as soon as possible in order to demonstrate success, and delays work against them.

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A tour of Vector Space Systems

Jim Cantrell and cars

[UPDATE: I have been informed by Vector’s PR department that they have recently changed the company’s name, dropping “Space Systems” from the title. I can’t really change the title here, but I thought I note this fact for my readers.]

Today I got a quick tour of Vector Space System’s very blue collar but active rocket factory in Tucson, Arizona. My tour guide was Jim Cantrell, the CEO of the company.

Cantrell, shown on the right in front of one of his side businesses fixing and refurbishing race cars and rare luxury sports cars (also located in this factory), started out with a love of race cars, which he still builds and races. As he said to me, “Long endurance car racing is still my thing.”

However, he has also spent his life in the space business. He has worked for government agencies and numerous private businesses, including SpaceX at its very beginning. Vector Space Systems is an effort put together by him and several other people to capture the smallsat market, a market he truly believes is going to explode with activity in the coming years. If things go as he wishes, they hope to launch at least one hundred times a year, from multiple launch sites. Their goal is simplicity and quick turnaround at an inexpensive cost.

The company is presently in the testing phase leading up to their first orbital launches, which they hope to start in 2018. Right now they are building a series of full scale versions of their Vector-R rocket with a dummy second stage. The idea is to do a string of suborbital test flights, the first of which will fly in about a week from Mohave in California, with the second flying from the Georgia spaceport in Camden County. The image below is the first stage of that first test rocket.

Vector test first stage

Vector first stage engine

second test rocket

For this flight their main goal is to test the engine, which Cantrell is showing me in the picture to the right. I was astonished at how small and simple the engine was. In fact, the rocket itself was amazingly small. It looked like it could almost fit inside a typical moving truck.

Below and to the right is the first stage for their second test flight, presently being assembled. They hope it will be ready for flight in only a few weeks after the first flight. They plan five suborbital test flights, with the last capable of getting about 90% to orbit. Along the way they will test their avionics, the rocket’s balancing systems, and its computer and tanks. Once these tests are complete they will then move to testing the orbital version in 2018.

Obviously, all this depends on every test flight being successful. But then, even if something goes wrong they will learn something and move on. For example, they recently transported an engineering version of the rocket to the visitor center at Kennedy. As Cantrell explained, “We learned things new just making that move.”

bumper sticker

In the end, I think the bumper sticker to the right, attached to the window of Vector Space System’s office, sums everything up. The people at Vector want to make money in space, but they — like everyone in the space business — also love making rockets and engines and going fast. What better combination from life could you ask for?

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Vector signs deal with Georgia spaceport

Vector Space Systems has signed a deal with a Georgia spaceport to conduct one suborbital test flight there of its Vector-R rocket.

The agreement covers only one flight, but considering that Vector is also planning to launch from Kennedy, I think they are doing this to test their rocket’s ability to easily launch from multiple launch sites. It is a small mobile rocket, and they are probably designing its launch systems to be very mobile as well.

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Vector Space Systems plans launches from Kennedy

The competition heats up: Vector Space Systems will this weekend erect a test version of its two-stage Vector-R rocket and launch platform for display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center.

CEO Jim Cantrell also “will announce the intention of the company to use the launch facilities in the future,” according to Space Florida. The two-stage Vector-R — the “R” is short for Rapid — stands 42 feet tall and measures 42 inches around, and is designed to deliver micro-satellites weighing up to about 135 pounds to orbit. The rocket is expected to debut in 2018, flying up to six times. The company eventually envisions launching 100 or more times a year.

Much of this sounds like a bit of PR aimed at the public, not an actual flight plan. However, if they are prepping for an eventual launch at Kennedy there is also no reason they shouldn’t hype that fact beforehand.

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Vector successfully test fires its rocket engine

The competition heats up: Vector Space Systems has announced the successful first test firing of the first stage engine to be used on its Vector-R rocket.

The engine test, which took place in Mojave, Calif. on Dec. 8, featured a single piece, 3D AM printed injector developed in partnership with NASA’s Science, Technology, and Mission Directorate (STMD) Flight Opportunities, a program which extends research labs into space-relevant environments by partnering with small satellite launch companies. Earlier this year, NASA provided a grant to Vector to design and test the injector.

Vector continues to push the envelope by being the first in the industry to pursue the LOX/Propylene propellant combination, which created the highest thrust to date from a LOX/Propylene fueled engine. This test of the 5K-lbf on flight fuels serves as a stepping stone to Vector’s first launch of the Vector-R slated for 2017, and moves the company one step closer to its mission of connecting space startups and innovators with affordable, reliable access to space.

They have also signed the land lease for the Tucson site where they plan to build their rocket factory.

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