Vector completes first suborbital test flight


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Capitalism in space: Vector today successfully completed the first suborbital test flight of an engineering test prototype of its orbital rocket.

The rocket that flew is the same one I photographed during my March 30th tour with Vector CEO Jim Cantrell of Vector’s Tucson factory.

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5 comments

  • Alex

    Mr. Zimmerman: I think, you are not right. They did not launch the first stage of Vector-R’s launch vehicle, which has 3 engines. This test rocket was, as it seems, a much lighter and simplified engineering model, which used only one engine.

    https://vectorspacesystems.com/vector-r/

  • Alex: You are correct. I will revise.

  • Alex

    Mr. Zimmerman: As it seems the rocket that was launched here and which you was presented to you at your tour from 30th of March, is composed from an outer shell (“airframe”), which has the later launcher’s outer shape and will not applied in the real launcher). Inside seems a special propulsion unit installed, which may derived from a former Garvey design. It seems possible that the only component, which will be used for the launcher (to be developed) is the engine. I would like not use the term “fraud”, but if I am right it is not correct to sell this rocket configuration in the way it was done by Mr. Cantrell. The launch video shows also only the first seconds of potentially unguided launch. Your comments?

  • Alex: Cantrell and Vector have been very clear that this and the next four launches are suborbital engineering tests, not orbital flights of the full rocket. I will become more skeptical of them if they do not follow through with the remaining test flights, and if they do, those flights don’t show any advances. Right now, I give them the benefit of the doubt.

  • Edward

    Alex,
    Test plans during development often work their way up to the flight configuration. Without inside knowledge, it is difficult to know exactly what the test is demonstrating to the development team. For instance, SpaceShipOne was not tested in full-up flight configuration with engine ignition on its first flight; they worked their way up to suborbital flight into space using a couple of dozen test flights. Only after that did they performed the two flights that won them the Ansari X-Prize.

    As long as Vector has a valid development and test plan to follow and as long as they follow the plan with any adjustments needed due to problems or insights from previous tests, then they are doing OK.

    I keep being surprised at how impatient people are at technology development. Not only in the case of Vector, but in the case of 3D printed lunar bricks. It seems that people think that if it doesn’t make the finished product on the first try, then it is a failure that should be abandoned.

    Announcements of progress are supposed to provide encouragement to the rest of the industry, not to provide skepticism from everyone else.

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