DARPA Launch Challenge Nears End with Modified Rules, One Competitor

The DARPA Launch Challenge is nearing its end with modified rules and only one of three finalists left standing to win $12 million in prize money.

Astra Space will attempt to conduct two launches within days of each other from the Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island. The launches will take place from different pads at the spaceport and place satellites into different sun-synchronous trajectories.

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Astra Emerges From Stealth, Shooting for $1 Million Per Launch

Astra Introduction Video from Chris Kemp on Vimeo.

Ashlee Vance also has a story at Bloomberg:

https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-astra-rocket/

Some interesting tidbits:

  • Astra’s next launch is scheduled for Feb. 21 from Pacific Spaceport Complex — Alaska on Kodiak Island;
  • previous two launches suffered in-flight failures;
  • payload will be up to 450 lb (204 kg) to low Earth orbit;
  • launch cost is $2.5 million, but Astra is working toward $1 million;
  • the company is using aluminum and simplified engines to keep costs down;
  • Astra has a staff of 150 people;
  • Former NASA Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Chris Kemp is CEO;
  • Astra’s CTO and co-founder is Adam London, who spent 12 years running Ventions;
  • The company has raised more than $100 million from investors;
  • Astra is the last of three companies standing in the DARPA Launch Challenge, under which it must launch twice from different locations in two weeks to win $12 million; and,
  • Other competitors included Vector Space, which has filed for bankruptcy, and Virgin Origin, which decided to pull out.

Vector, Garvey Subsidiary File For Bankruptcy

Flight test of P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle from Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California. (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

Space News reports that small launch provider Vector and its subsidiary, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware.

Vector had been delveloping the Vector-R booster to loft small satellites into low Earth orbit. However, it laid off most of its employees in August due to financial difficulties. CEO Jim Contrell left the company, with John Garvey taking over.

Space News reports:

According to industry sources familiar with the company, the August layoffs were triggered when one of the company’s major investors, venture fund Sequoia, withdrew its support for the company because of concerns about how the company was managed. That came as Vector was working on a new funding round, and Sequoia’s decision had a domino effect, causing other investors to back out. Sequoia didn’t respond to a request for comment in August about any role it played in Vector’s problems.

The company is currently being funded through “debtor in possession” financing from Lockheed Martin, according to a resolution by Vector’s board of directors included in the filing. Under a Nov. 20 agreement, Lockheed provided Vector with a $500,000 secured loan and proposed purchasing Vector’s assets associated with a satellite program called GalacticSky for no more than $2.5 million.

While Vector was best known for its small launch vehicle development efforts, it undertook a separate project called GalacticSky to create software-defined satellites. That resulted in a number of patents on the technology and work on prototype satellites the company once planned to start launching this year.

USAF Awards Launch Contract Formerly Held by Vector to Aveum

Aveum rocket launching drome. (Credit: Aveum)

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (USAF PR) — The U.S. Air Force’s Rocket Systems Launch Program (RSLP) office, part of the Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Enterprise, awarded a $4.9 million contract to Aevum, Inc. today for the Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer (ASLON)-45 space lift mission via RSLP’s Small Rocket Program-Orbital (SRP-O) framework. 

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Vector Announces “Pause” in Operations Due to Change in Financing

August 9, 2019

In response to a significant change in financing, Vector Launch Inc (Vector) announced today that it is undertaking a pause of operations. A core team is evaluating options on completing the development of the company’s Vector-R small launch vehicle, while also supporting the Air Force and other government agencies on programs such as the recent ASLON-45 award.

The company plans to make more information available next week.

Vector Launch

John Garvey Takes Over Vector as Jim Cantrell Departs

Vector rocket (Credit: Vector)

UPDATE: Berger reports two Vector employees told him the company laid off all its employees today.

Eric Berger reports that rumors of Jim Cantrell’s departure from the role of CEO at Vector are true amid reports that the launch provider is experiencing financial problems.

A spokeswoman for Vector did not comment [financial problems]. 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.”

The company has been working on developing its Vector-R vehicle and trying to prepare it for a suborbital flight this summer. In an interview in April, Cantrell told Ars that he hoped to fly an upgraded version, Vector-R B1003, on an orbital flight from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska before the end of this year. The financial difficulties have reportedly arisen just after Vector received some good news in the form of a launch contract from the US Air Force.

This week, the U.S. Air Force awarded Vector a contract worth $3.4 million to orbit satellites under the Small Rocket Program-Orbital program.

Vector Names Blue Origin Veteran as CFO

Stephanie Koster

TUCSON (Vector PR) — Vector, the space access company, today announced Stephanie Koster will join the team as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Koster brings more than 20 years of extensive experience in domestic and international strategy, finance, and operations across several Fortune 50 and high growth aerospace companies. As CFO, Koster will lead finance and business operations to enable Vector’s dynamic growth.

“As we look to our future and transition from a period of development into full operations, we needed someone to guide us through this exciting time,” said Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector. “Stephanie’s proven experience in finance, growth, and strategy for some of the world’s largest aerospace companies makes her well-suited to help us achieve our aggressive business goals.”

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Virgin Orbit, Vector and Mystery Stealth Company Qualify for DARPA Launch Challenge

Credit: DARPA

ARLINGTON, Va. (DARPA PR) — The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads. Three competitors successfully completed the qualification phase and will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks. Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020.

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Vector’s GalacticSky GSky-1 Satellite Ready for Launch Later This Year

GalacticSky GSky-1 satellite.(Credit: Vector)

SAN JOSE, Calif. (Vector PR) Vector, the space access company, today announced its GalacticSky division, which has been in stealth mode since 2016. Led by veterans from VMWare and Citrix, as well as satellite innovators, GalacticSky has achieved a major milestone on its path to launch its first GalacticSky software-defined satellite, GSky-1.

GSky-1 successfully completed integration at the University of Southern California’s Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) at the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) and will validate GalacticSky’s mission to enable innovators to easily and effectively deploy space application technology in space.

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Will Alcântara Finally Stop Being the Spaceport of the Future?

Cyclone 4 launch pad under construction. (Credit: Alcantara Space)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Brazil’s decades-long effort to launch satellites from its underused Alcântara Launch Center could finally be bearing fruit.

On Monday, Brazil and the United States signed a Technology Safeguards Agreement that will allow American companies to launch orbital rockets from Alcântara.
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Vector Announces Dedicated Nanosat Launch For Hiber

TUCSON, Ariz., Jan. 11, 2019 (Vector PR) — Vector, a space access company serving the over $300 billion space market, today announced it will conduct a dedicated launch of a nanosatellite for Hiber later this year from the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska in Kodiak. Hiber, a Dutch company with two nanosatellites already in orbit, plans to utilize the Vector-R dedicated small satellite launch system to deploy its nanosatellite.

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Vector Signs Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with U.S. Air Force

TUCSON, Ariz. (Vector PR)  – Vector today announced it has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the United States Air Force Space Command and Missile Systems Center’s Space Superiority Directorate. In addition to its nearly three-year partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the CRADA with the Air Force highlights Vector’s continued efforts to develop critical technologies with the U.S Department of Defense.

Located at the Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo Calif., the Space Missile Systems Center will engage in collaborative research and development activities relating to Vector’s launch services and the Air Force’s technology and mission needs. The CRADA is effective for one year and includes provisions for protecting information by both the Air Force and Vector.

Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), a subordinate unit of Air Force Space Command, is the center of technical excellence for developing, acquiring, fielding and sustaining military space systems. SMC’s mission is to deliver resilient and affordable space capabilities. The center is responsible for on-orbit check-out, testing, sustainment and maintenance of military satellite constellations and other Department of Defense space systems.

About Vector:

Created by the original founding team of SpaceX, Vector connects space startups and innovators with dedicated launch services and enabling platforms to access space more efficiently than ever before. Vector is proud to design, build and launch its vehicles and enabling platforms in the United States of America. For more information, please visit http://www.vector-launch.com











Vector Raises $70 Million Series Be Funding Round

Flight test of P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle from Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California. (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

TUCSON, Ariz., Oct. 19, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector, a leading microsatellite launch company comprised of New Space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced that it has secured $70M in a Series B funding round led by Kodem Growth Partners, in conjunction with Morgan Stanley Alternative Investment Partners.

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Vector Elects James F. Palmer to Board of Directors

James F. Palmer

TUCSON, Ariz. (Vector PR) — Vector, a microsatellite launch company comprised of New Space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced that James (Jim) F. Palmer, the former corporate vice president and chief financial officer of the Northrop Grumman Corporation, has been elected to Vector’s Board of Directors.

A respected veteran of the aerospace community, Palmer brings with him more than 45 years of financial experience, including CFO positions at three Fortune 500 companies, and spanning large corporations such as Northrop Grumman Corporation, Visteon, Boeing Capital Corporation, a subsidiary of The Boeing Company, and McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

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Vector Awarded Patent for Enhanced Liquid Oxygen-Propylene Rocket Engine

Flight test of P-19H engineering model of the Vector-R launch vehicle from Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California. (Credit: Vector Space Systems)

Microsatellite launch company receives patent for technology it pioneered, enabling higher performance at reduced cost and complexity

TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 25, 2018 (Vector PR) — Vector a microsatellite launch company comprised of New Space and enterprise software industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas, Boeing, Sea Launch and VMware, today announced that the company received a U.S. patent for its enhanced liquid oxygen-propylene rocket engine. Vector is the first and only launch provider to utilize propylene fuel and liquid oxygen (LOX) in an operational launch system. This engine patent validates the innovative nature of Vector’s approach and further protects the company’s fundamental technology as it prepares to deliver customer payloads to orbit.

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