Former SpaceX founding members unveil Vector Space Systems
If the NewSpace era has become known for anything, it’s for the diversity of players it has brought to the market. In one recent case, one of the core companies of the NewSpace movement has seen founding members of SpaceX form their own company—Vector Space Systems.
Representatives who have worked for Virgin Galactic, Sea Launch, McDonnell Douglas, and SpaceX have raised approximately $1 million in angel funding from former Silicon Valley executives who have worked for Adobe, Google, VMware, Symantec, and others.
However, the “big boys” of aerospace—United Launch Alliance, Orbital ATK, SpaceX, and others—shouldn’t have much to fear in terms of competition from Vector Space Systems. The new company will be a microsatellite launch service provider—one which will plumb the resources from its contacts and connections to help the firm “change the dynamics and economics of the space launch industry”.
CubeSats are tiny spacecraft, much smaller than their traditional counterparts, with some measuring a mere 4 inches (10 centimeters) across. Vector Space Systems is hoping to capitalize on the services that will be required to send these spacecraft to orbit near the same altitude as the International Space Station (approximately 250 miles).
“I am truly honored and thrilled to be leading a team of industry veterans on such an important and pivotal space startup,” said Jim Cantrell, Vector Space Systems CEO and a founding member of SpaceX. “We see innovation and value creation being the strongest in the microsatellite sector and Vector Space Systems will create a development platform that will foster this innovation and bring the reality of space to a much larger pool of entrepreneurs who don’t need to be space experts.”
“Space need not be the realm of the elite, and privileged few any longer,” said Shaun Coleman, Vector Space Systems Board Member and Investor. “Vector Space Systems was founded to break down those barriers by developing a platform to provide low-cost and reliable access to orbit.”
Coleman said he finds Vector Space Systems to be similar in many ways to disruptive software technologies such as VMware, which, he said, saw the need to democratize and make more efficient the data center by allowing its customers to focus on applications and data, and not the underlying computer hardware.
“This innovative boundary-breaking approach applied to space will enable startups and cost-conscious innovators alike to concentrate on what’s most important—their unique applications,” Coleman said. “Today innovators may have to wait years to get their products to market and orbit; no longer. I look forward to being a part of this revolution of space shaping an environment that empowers the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
If things proceed as planned, microsatellites could make up the bulk (75 percent) of all payloads sent to orbit. There were 175 of the small spacecraft launched last year (2015). Vector Space Systems is looking to invert the current business model where smaller satellites comprise secondary missions that are flown along with a larger “primary” payload.
Whereas other launch services providers have primarily focused on the primary, Vector Space Systems would make these smaller satellites their core focus.
“Space is an expanding economic frontier that is drawing the collective creativity and innovation of the commercial industries,” said Nick Karangelan, CEO of Trident Systems. “What we need are technologies like those Vector Space Systems is bringing in order to lower the barrier of entry to space and to enable our technologies to fly and build profitable enterprises around the space technologies we possess. I’m investing in Vector Space Systems because it is the right team to make this happen and its technical approach is clearly heads and shoulders above the rest!”
Vector Space Systems list of founders is an extensive one. It includes Cantrell who was on the founding team of SpaceX with Elon Musk and served as SpaceX’s first vice president of business development. Also on board is John Garvey, who has three decades of experience in the aerospace industry (and who was also a founding member of SpaceX); Ken Sunshine, who has worked for Virgin Galactic (as chief financial officer), Orbital Sciences, and Moon Express; and Eric Besnard, who has worked on projects funded by NASA, the U.S. Air Force, as well as other organizations.
Whereas SpaceX’s frontman is known for his dislike of acronyms, Vector Space Systems also has expressed a desire to “broaden the access of space technology to non-experts”.
Another theme that carries over from the NewSpace companies it originated from is that this new organization will now work to create new avenues and opportunities in space.
According to a release issued by the company, the microsatellites that comprise the target market Vector Space Systems will be working to support are predicted to comprise as much as 75 percent of all satellites launched by number by 2020 (Space Intelligence Report 2015).
Video courtesy of GarveySpace
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.