Vector changes CEO, might have money issues


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Capitalism in space: Jim Cantrell, who had been the CEO of smallsat rocket company Vector Launch since inception, has apparently left the company.

Vector, a micro-launch company founded in 2016 to build small rockets for payloads of up to 60kg, may be in financial trouble, multiple industry sources told Ars on Friday. A spokeswoman for Vector did not comment on that. However, she did confirm the company has parted ways with its chief executive: “Jim Cantrell is no longer with Vector effective today. John Garvey has assumed the role of CEO.”

I wish this story wasn’t so, though I also admit my instincts were telling me things were going sour with the continuing delays in their test launch schedule.

Jim Cantrell was an unusual CEO, always available and open. He generously took me on personal tours of Vector facilities, twice, first in March 2017 and again in January 2019. I wish him well in whatever future endeavors he undetakes.

As for Vector, they need to get off the ground. They had had a substantial head start over many of the other new smallsat rocket companies, but that lead has now evaporated.

More information here. It appears one of their major investors might have pulled out. It also appears they have temporarily suspended operations, shuttering their offices.

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4 comments

  • Joe

    I think the big issue with vector is that the top brass had a lot of great people but they are mostly tinkerers. For this kind of business you need the have a plan and execute straight forward and then make course corrections as needed. If you spend all your time in the lab, you don’t fly much. The highest altitude they have flown as a company can be beaten by just about any Tripoli Level 3 rocketeer. For as long as they have been around, that doesn’t look good.

    Given that, I do hope they can course correct, get the funding they need and move forward to flights.

  • Joe: Though I think there is some truth in what you say about Vector’s top brass being “tinkerers,” I found myself very amused that this comment was coming from a guy essentially building cubesats in his garage.

  • Col Beausabre

    Let’s put this in perspective. Something like nine out ten start ups fail – doesn’t matter what the industry. The fact that there are failures is proof the system is working. It’s Joseph Schumpeter’s “Creative Destruction” – firms which fail to meet the demands of the market are broken up and their resources redistributed to firms that do. So while I wish Vector and everyone else except Richard Branson success in the business of space, I accept that there will be casualties. The time to worry is when no one fails – that’s when something is fishy (like to government intervening).

  • Edward

    From the Ars Technica article: “The rocket’s engines and their novel use of a liquid oxygen and liquid propylene fuel have worked as intended, but the fuel tanks were too heavy. So engineers had to re-work the vehicle to lower its overall mass.

    This has me a bit confused. It suggests that there was an early design problem, as the rocket’s weight should have been well known at design time, and if the engines perform as intended, then they must have known at design time that the rocket could not reach orbit. The only other thing that I can think of is that the rocket has more drag in the lower atmosphere than was expected.

    From the Space News article: “Industry sources claim that one of Vector’s largest venture capital backers, Sequoia, withdrew its funding for the company.

    It is clear that the company has a financial problem, but it is not clear whether Sequoia withdrew due to technical problems or if there were other factors.

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