Space News reports that small launch provider Vector and its subsidiary, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Delaware.
Vector had been delveloping the Vector-R booster to loft small satellites into low Earth orbit. However, it laid off most of its employees in August due to financial difficulties. CEO Jim Contrell left the company, with John Garvey taking over.
Space News reports:
According to industry sources familiar with the company, the August layoffs were triggered when one of the company’s major investors, venture fund Sequoia, withdrew its support for the company because of concerns about how the company was managed. That came as Vector was working on a new funding round, and Sequoia’s decision had a domino effect, causing other investors to back out. Sequoia didn’t respond to a request for comment in August about any role it played in Vector’s problems.
The company is currently being funded through “debtor in possession” financing from Lockheed Martin, according to a resolution by Vector’s board of directors included in the filing. Under a Nov. 20 agreement, Lockheed provided Vector with a $500,000 secured loan and proposed purchasing Vector’s assets associated with a satellite program called GalacticSky for no more than $2.5 million.
While Vector was best known for its small launch vehicle development efforts, it undertook a separate project called GalacticSky to create software-defined satellites. That resulted in a number of patents on the technology and work on prototype satellites the company once planned to start launching this year.
NASA has released a document listing the 1,206 active Space Act Agreements (SAAs) the agency has with commercial companies, non-profit organizations and state and local governments.
From that list, I’ve extracted agreements with individual companies. Below you will find tables listing SAAs that NASA has signed with Virgin Group companies, Moon Express and NanoRacks. There is also a fourth table that has SAAs with a number of companies and organizations that we follow on Parabolic Arc.
SAAs come in three varieties: reimburseable, non-reimburseable and funded. Under reimburseable agreements, a company or organization will pay NASA for its services. No money exchanges hands under non-reimburseable agrements. And under funded agreements, NASA pays the company to perform work or provide services. (The space agency made substantial use of SAA’s in the Commercial Crew Program.)
TUCSON, Ariz., Sept. 8, 2016 (Vector Space PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced that NASA has selected its Phase II proposal under the 2015 SBIR/STTR program to continue development of an advanced prototype of the upper stage for the Vector-R launch vehicle.
The contract, proposed through Vector’s acquired Garvey Spacecraft Corporation subsidiary, complements an earlier SBIR award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that addresses the use of the Vector-R first stage as a second stage for the XS-1 Experimental Spaceplane. In conjunction with the awarded contracts, totaling approximately $2.5M, Vector is investing in related infrastructure and range site preparations to enable high performance flight testing by the fourth quarter of 2017.
MOJAVE, Calif., Aug. 2, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced the successful launch of its P-20 rocket, a sub-scale test vehicle for the Vector 1, in advance of orbital launches in 2018.
The test, conducted July 30 in Mojave, CA, also carried Vector’s first customer payload through a partnership with Finnish-based Iceye. Iceye launched a prototype of its micro satellite’s core computing and communications systems to test its electrical and mechanical resilience in a launch environment.
TUSCON, Ariz., July 20, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a micro satellite space launch company comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced it has finalized the acquisition of Garvey Spacecraft Corporation. As part of the acquisition, Garvey Spacecraft Corporation Founder and CEO John Garvey joins Vector Space Systems as Chief Technology Officer.
Founded in May 2016, Vector Space Systems was formed to connect space startups with affordable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles for accessing space at a cost and schedule never before possible. The acquisition allows Vector Space Systems to accelerate its mission of fostering innovation to spark growth in the space commerce industry through reliable and frequent launch opportunities.
“Through the extensive knowledge, designs, hardware, flight experience and flight prototypes acquired from Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, Vector Space Systems has seen accelerated success within just three months of its founding, positioning us as the leading launch vehicle for the microsatellite industry,” said Jim Cantrell, CEO and co-founder of Vector Space Systems. “Vector Space Systems and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation share a common vision of space commerce growth, and by joining forces, we now have a team of experienced space veterans, cutting edge proven designs and prototype vehicles which have accelerated our time to first orbital launch to only 2 years from today, down from the typical 5-7 years from a clean sheet vehicle design.”
As I was looking through NASA’s recent small business selection announcement for propulsion-related projects, I have found that the space agency has selected 29 Small Business Innovation Research and 8 Small Business Technology Transfer proposals for funding.
The proposals cover a wide range of areas, including in-space propulsion for CubeSats to technologies for new launch vehicles. Several proposals are also focused on in-space propellant depots.
A list of the selected projects with links to the proposals follows.
NASA has selected Garvey Spacecraft Corporation for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Phase I award to develop technology for a new nanosat launch vehicle. The company is working with the University of Alabama in Huntsville on the project.
TUSCON, Ariz., April 26, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a Micro Satellite space launch enterprise comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced it has secured more than $1M in angel funding at Space 2.0 in Silicon Valley. Vector Space Systems, which sports a roster of technology and aerospace giants to provide industry insight, expertise and leadership, was formed to fundamentally change the dynamics and economics of the space launch industry.
More than just another satellite launch company, Vector Space Systems connects space startups with affordable and reliable launch-enabling platforms and vehicles at a cost point never before possible for accessing space. Featuring the only launch system dedicated to serving the rapidly growing Micro satellite market, Vector Space Systems aims to foster innovation throughout the market segment to spark space commerce growth through reliable and frequent launch opportunities. In addition, Vector Space Systems is developing a platform approach to broaden the access of space technology to non-experts, extending the traditional launch vehicle only model to include space systems that permit anyone to innovate and create space applications without the need for hiring an entirely new satellite development team.
I was conducting some research into Defense Department Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to see what space and rocket projects it has been funding. I found a group of SBIR Phase I contracts awarded by DARPA in 2015, most of them related to the XS-1 launcher program. I don’t think I’ve written about them previously.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AAC PR) – Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) achieved an important milestone in their collaborative venture to path-find operations for a commercial nanosat launch vehicle at AAC’s Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSC-A) on Kodiak Island. Just one month after starting, the team worked through the logistics to enable GSC to ship a prototype first stage and then successfully demonstrate on-site fuel loading into the vehicle.
Anchorage, AK (AAC PR) – Garvey Spacecraft Corporation (GSC) has announced its selection of Alaska Aerospace Corporation’s Pacific Spaceport Complex–Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island as host range for the next phase of the company’s Nanosat Launch Vehicle (NLV) flight test program.
NASA has selected Garvey Spacecraft Corporation and the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for a Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) that will fund research into using 3D additive machining to produce a nanosat launch vehicle.
“The technical innovation proposed here expands upon early research into the viability of additive machining (AM) for liquid rocket engine components and other emerging capabilities to initiate TRL 6 flight test evaluations of candidate applications that could enhance the affordability of a small launch vehicle (SLV) booster stage,” the proposal summary states.
Garvey Spacecraft Corporation recently conducted a successful static test on a nanosat launch vehicle (NLV) engine at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) range near Koehn Lake in California.
The three-second burn conducted on March 23 was the first time the company had used liquid oxygen with propylene in place of ethanol on its 5,000 lbf-thrust NLV main engine, Founder John Garvey tells Parabolic Arc.
“Only 3 seconds, but got through the ignition sequence, which is always the big question at this phase,” Garvey said in an email. “Used techniques previously developed with our 500 lbf LOX/propylene engine. Also continued to evaluate thrust vector control.
“The work plan still is to conduct additional testing this spring / summer (more ignition cycles, extend the duration), followed eventually by a flight test featuring this engine,” Garvey wrote.
The company is developing the engine under a NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II contract awarded last year. The award was for a total of up $700,000 for work over a period of two years.
Garvey’s initial goal is to deliver 10 kg payloads into a 250-km orbit. A larger version of the booster will be designed to place satellites weighing up to 20 kg into a 450-km orbit.