Even as 2021 shapes up to see a record number of launches, demand is growing fast. Companies like Phantom Space Corporation aim to fill it with mass manufacturing techniques never yet seen in the space industry. Now the company has acquired StratSpace, a satellite program designer and manager, Phantom Space announced Tuesday. It’s a critical step toward building out a turnkey space transportation and manufacturing service, Phantom Space co-founder Michal Prywata told TechCrunch.
“[StratSpace] has all the know-how, all the tools, the satellite structures, communication systems that can make a spacecraft operate,” he explained. “Which is very critical for us, because we want to be one of the first companies that covers that full spectrum of service from start to finish.” The company declined to disclose the terms of the acquisition.
Phantom Space’s bet is that combining a mass rocket manufacturing strategy with acquisitions that position it as a “one-stop shop” will help bring down the cost of space access. Prywata said the company’s aiming to charge $4 million for a dedicated launch that would bring up to 450 kilograms to low Earth orbit.
“We’re talking about hundreds to potentially thousands a year,” Prywata said, referring to the number of launches the company eventually hopes to achieve. “As of right now, the market certainly supports hundreds of launches a year.”
They’re big aspirations for a company that has not yet begun even flight testing a rocket model. Phantom Space said it is outsourcing many components, like the engine and avionics system, that can take years to develop, to get it there. For other components and services, it’s looking to use an acquisition strategy.
“That’s why we’re looking at acquisitions pretty aggressively because we feel there’s an opportunity now to start integrating these types of technologies and companies within one umbrella and create this overall infrastructure of a company that can take ideas and bring them to space,” he said. That includes building satellites, integration, launch and data communication. “We’re trying to cover that full spectrum, where we can help other companies that have some application that they want to launch into space, we can help them get there, because we have all these specific pieces that can make it all happen.”
Phantom Space is aiming to launch its two-stage Daytona rocket for the first time in the first quarter of 2023, with stage-level testing commencing in early 2022. Daytona, the company’s “workhorse” launch vehicle, comes in at 61 feet in height and can carry 450 kilograms to LEO on eight engines. While the Daytona is totally expendable, the company has plans to reuse its larger Laguna rocket model.
The company has signed a right of entry for Space Launch Complex 5 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, which will likely be the location of its first launches. It also just signed an agreement with the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska, where Astra (another company looking toward mass rocket manufacturing) completes its launches, and it’s planning on eventually having launch agreements with Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida.
But even if flight testing goes smoothly, reaching hundreds or even thousands of launches per year is still currently impossible given the small number of spaceports in the country.
“That said, having launch capability just in the U.S. isn’t enough, because you won’t be able to get to hundreds a year just out of those three sites,” Prywata said. So, the company is also looking at a site in northern Sweden, northern Australia and Brazil. It’s also in talks with the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to license spaceports that are restricted to horizontal launches only to allow for vertical launch.
Phantom Space’s acquisition of StratSpace is only going to be the first of many, Prywata said. “We’re still small so we’re trying to grow aggressively,” he said. “So we’re starting with these smaller acquisitions but very key acquisitions to enable our overall strategy.”