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.
UPDATE: Berger reports two Vector employees told him the company laid off all its employees today.
Eric Berger reports that rumors of Jim Cantrell’s departure from the role of CEO at Vector are true amid reports that the launch provider is experiencing financial problems.
A spokeswoman for Vector did not comment [financial problems]. However, she did confirm the company has parted ways with its chief executive: “Jim Cantrell is no longer with Vector effective today. John Garvey has assumed the role of CEO.”
The company has been working on developing its Vector-R vehicle and trying to prepare it for a suborbital flight this summer. In an interview in April, Cantrell told Ars that he hoped to fly an upgraded version, Vector-R B1003, on an orbital flight from the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Alaska before the end of this year. The financial difficulties have reportedly arisen just after Vector received some good news in the form of a launch contract from the US Air Force.
This week, the U.S. Air Force awarded Vector a contract worth $3.4 million to orbit satellites under the Small Rocket Program-Orbital program.
TUCSON, Ariz., May 19, 2016 (Vector Space Systems PR) — Vector Space Systems, a Micro Satellite space platform enterprise comprised of new-space industry veterans from SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, McDonnell Douglas and Sea Launch, today announced the successful test of its second stage engine, a major milestone in advance of the company’s first sub-orbital test flight as Vector Space Systems this summer.
The test, which took place in Mojave, California on May 14, featured the company’s second stage high-performance engine for its launch vehicle. Employing 3D printed components, the engine produces 500 pounds of thrust with a high specific impulse for maximum fuel efficiency. This development test was one in a series of second-stage engine tests leading to flight qualification in 2017.
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.
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.
Garvey Spacecraft Company is continuing its quest to develop a nano-sat launch vehicle through an incremental series of suborbital rocket tests as well as a small business grant from NASA, according to founder John Garvey.