Vector Space Systems recently conducted a suborbital test of a full-scale prototype of their Vector-R launch vehicle. This was the second test flight, which took place in Georgia, where the rocket ascended almost two miles above a forest. The company explains that their test program remains on schedule at this time.
“Our historic launch today is a testament to the hard work of the Vector team, as well as support from NASA and Spaceport Camden,” said Jim Cantrell, CEO and Co-Founder of Vector Space Systems. “Together, we’re on the fast-track to get to an orbital capability in 2018 and look forward to continuing momentum and unprecedented growth through the course of this year.”
This testing was largely done to test the 3D-printed engine injector, which was developed by Vector through collaborative research with the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. The injector was printed in a single piece, cutting down on possible errors, friction points, and time and cost of manufacturing. This collaboration took part following Vector winning a grand from NASA’s Science, Technology, and Mission Directorate Flight Opportunities program.
Ron Young, the manager of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, said, “This is a significant accomplishment for Vector and for NASA’s initiatives to advance enabling technologies for suborbital and orbital small launch vehicles.”
Vector had clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration for a low-altitude flight. The rocket was carrying a prototype imaging spacecraft for Astro Digital, along with a biology experiment for a local organization in Georgia.
In May of this year, the first successful test launch took place. Both tests use the Vector-R vehicle. It is built to carry small payloads into space and features a 3D-printer engine injector.
Previous to these launches, a successful launch of Vector’s P20 satellite prototype took place. All three test launches are part of preparation for commercial launches which are expected to begin in 2018.
This most recent launch is the first customer-funded launch operation for the space commercial launch industry, Vector says. The launch is also the first launch from Spaceport Camden, which was originally built and used in the 1960s for ground-based testing of solid rocket motors by NASA.
Vector is working to appeal to small companies with its price points. Launches using the Vector-R will be able to lift approximately 145 pounds to a low-Earth orbit and will start at less than $3 million.
In June of 2017, Vector Space announced $21 million in Series A funding, led by Sequoia Capital. Other investors in the series include Shasta Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Vector has also received funding in the form of seed, grant, and venture funding. The companies and individuals participating include DARPA, Desert Angels, Dylan Taylor, Kanematsu Corporation, Matthew Conover, NASA, Shaun Coleman, and Space Angels.
The most recent Series A funding is also expected to be used for numerous projects, which include opening a Silicon Valley headquarters, developing GalacticSky satellites, breaking ground on a rocket manufacturing plant in Tucson, and accelerating the series of test flights in the company’s series.