Space Florida Vector R-ing in on new launch provider from Cape Canaveral
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Space Florida and Vector Space Systems, a company with roots deep in the NewSpace movement, unveiled their Vector-R rocket at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) on Saturday, March 25, 2017.
In attendance for today’s event was Space Florida’s President Frank DiBello (the CEO and Co-Founder of Vector Space Systems), Jim Cantrell, as well as Therrin Protze, the chief operating officer (COO) of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. As it turned out, Protze had news of his own to announce.
Vector-R will go on display at the Visitor Complex starting on Monday, March 27, as part of the “NASA Now” exhibit. For today, however, the rocket was erected at the Cape’s SLC-46.
Vector will share SLC-46 with Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK who plans to conduct launches of their Minotaur solid rocket booster from the site as well.
The Vector family of rockets currently consists of the Vector R (Rapid) and Vector H (Heavy) launchers. The Vector-R is described as being able to launch approximately 110 pounds (50 kilograms) to orbit. The Vector-H, meanwhile, is designed to be able to send 220 pounds (100 kilograms) to orbit. Vector-H has been developed so as to be a block upgrade to the Vector-R.
As the weights that these rockets are capable of sending to orbit suggest, Vector is designed to loft micro-spacecraft, and Vector Space Systems is currently marketing toward smaller, commercial companies.
As is the case with most launch vehicle families, these two boosters share common systems and facilities. Some of these include (but are not limited to) pressure fed ablative engines, carbon fiber fuselage, liquid oxygen and propylene fuels, and mobile launch capability.
Some of the individuals who formed Vector Space Systems were a part of SpaceX‘s Falcon 1 launch team. Vector-R stands in at about 45 feet (14 meters) in height and has an optional all-electric third stage that weighs about 11 pounds (5 kilograms). The Vector-R relies heavily on carbon fiber throughout the rocket (which also is one reason for the rocket’s black color).
If everything goes as the Vector team plans, there could be as many as 100 flights annually from the various sites they plan to launch from. The rate of launch is something that was highlighted during the event, with the aspiration of as many as three Vector-R flights a day being mentioned. Given that it takes about an hour and a half to prepare one of the launch vehicles for flight, this is a distinct possibility.
According to Cantrell, the Vector-R only has some 45 engines parts per finished rocket with 15 parts per engine. The fuel injectors of these engines use 3-D printed metal.
Arizona-based Vector Space Systems charges clients about $1.5 million and is considering a parachute-based recovery for the rocket’s first stage. Their plans don’t appear to stop there as they have also stated that they are considering developing satellites for customers. These could be launched aboard either the Vector R or H launch vehicles.
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.