Micro satellite launch startup Vector, which is founded by a team of alumni from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, Boeing and other aerospace leaders, competed its first suborbital launch and flight of a full-scale test version of its Vector-R launch rocket. The launch is also a first for Georgia’s Spaceport Camden, which was previously a NASA static test fire site for solid state rockets in the 1960s, before recently being repurposed as Vector’s launch facility.
Vector’s goal is to become a commercial launch provider, much like SpaceX, with which it shares founding team members Jim Cantrell and John Garvey. The test flight it flew today marks considerable progress towards that goal, since it also included onboard commercial test freight, including test packages from Astro Digital, the Center for Applied Space Technology and NASA’s Ames Research Center.
As of now, Vector says it’s on track to hit its target of achieving orbital launch capabilities by sometime next year, and it’s encouraged by today’s test since it also included the demonstration of a 3D-manufactured engine injector which was developed in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, and which will help it achieve its low cost launch goals.
Vector’s whole mission is to offer both dedicated, low-cost launch capabilities for small satellites, but also to field software defined satellites to allow developers to build apps for space using an API, instead of having to actual design, build and launch to orbit their own micro spacecraft.
The goal of the company is to be able to launch rockets for as low as $3 million, which is a fraction of the cost of SpaceX’s $60 million Falcon 9 launches (though with much lower payload capacity). It hopes to vastly increase access to space with this rock-bottom pricing, and it most recently raised a $21 million Series A round led by Sequoia to help make that vision a reality.