Tag Archives: Vector-R

Vector plans first orbital flight this October

Capitalism in space: Smallsat rocket company Vector now plans its first orbital flight this coming October, and also plans to have a commercial payload on board.

The article also states that the company already has launch contracts for almost 400 launches.

This story, consistent with a previous report in March, suggests that their build toward that first orbital launch is holding to its schedule.

Share

Vector to launch two cubesats from Alaska later this year

Vector yesterday announced that it plans to complete its first orbital launch from Alaska later this year, placing two commercial cubesats in orbit.

Their original plans had been to do five suborbital test flights, each pushing closer to orbital, with the last possibly reaching orbit. They’ve so far completed two of these five launches. Now it appears they are bypassing the last three test launches and are going straight to orbit on their next launch, and are pitching it as an operational commercial flight. I hope they have their engineering together. I also wonder if it might be wiser to do what Rocket Lab did, which is to tout its first orbital attempts as tests, and only tests, to lower expectations. That made them look good when the second test reached orbit successfully.

The change of plans might also be because Vector is feeling the competition pressure from Rocket Lab and the numerous other smallsat rocket companies that appear to be coming out of the woodwork. They need to get operational to put themselves in the forefront of this new launch industry.

Once again, I hope they have their engineering together. It would be a shame to screw up merely because they pushed things too much, when they right now are ahead of most other smallsat rocket companies.

Share

Vector gets new contract for five launches

Capitalism in space: Vector has signed a contract with nanosat company Open Cosmos, which has reserved five launches from 2019 to 2023.

The most interesting tidbit in this press release was where it says that Vector is planning its first orbital launch of its Vector-R rocket in July. According to the plans their CEO Jim Cantrell had described to me when he gave me a tour of their facility in March 2017, they were going to do five suborbital test launches before doing an orbital flight. So far they have done two of these. Either they plan to do the remaining three in the next six months, or are going to go orbital sooner than originally planned.

Share

Vector’s third suborbital test flight set for January 2018

Capitalism in space: The third suborbital test flight of Vector’s Vector-R rocket has been scheduled for January 2018 in Mohave.

Vector has, to date, performed two test flights of the Vector, both only to very low altitudes. The first took place in May in California’s Mojave Desert and the second in August at the future site of Spaceport Camden on Georgia’s Atlantic coast. A third test, [company head Jim] Cantrell said, is planned for January, back in the Mojave Desert.

He raised a note of caution about that test. “We have a high chance of planting that one in the desert, because it’s using thrust vector control. We’re taking the training wheels off,” he said.

The article is mostly about Vector’s deal to launch from Wallops Island, which I noted last week. Much of that however is public relations that is far from reality. The important thing now is for Vector to finish its test program and prove its rocket can reach orbit.

Share

Vector signs deal to launch from Wallops

Capitalism in space: Vector has signed an agreement with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia to do commercial launches of its smallsat rocket there.

Vector Space Systems officials and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne announced during a demonstration of the Vector-R launch vehicle at Launch Pad 0-B on Wallops Island that Vector has contracted to conduct three commercial orbital missions in the next two years from the Wallops spaceport, with an option for five additional launches.

Vector still needs to complete its test program, as its Vector-R rocket has not yet reached orbit.

Share

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.

Share

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?

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share

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.

Share