Today Vector updated their website, which previously had nothing but a video from retired Air Force general Robert Spalding. It now states that Vector is returning and focusing on sub-orbital and orbital launch vehicles and government and commercial contracts.

Short-lived history

The 35-second video didn’t tell us much about what their goals are for restarting the bankrupted company, though these plans seem similar to their original goals when the company started in 2016. It then successfully tested two sub-orbital test flights of an early version of its Vector R launcher.

Nothing got that much higher for them, leading to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2019. It sold most of its assets including GalaticSky, its operating software for satellites, which let companies test applications on satellites without the need to develop their own hardware.

Model of Vector-R launcher at Kennedy Space Center’s Rocket Garden

Vector was founded by Jim Cantrell (who helped found SpaceX and Moon Express), John Garvey, Shaun Coleman, Ken Sunshine, and Eric Besnard. The company received $1 million in angel seed investments, then about $21 million from various venture capital funds the same year. In 2018, it revised $70 million in a series B round of funding.

Eventually in 2019, they received a contract from the Air Force to launch a payload into orbit, but then had to cancel it due to Vector not meeting minimum requirements to be able to pay off their debts. Vector was a competitor in the DARPA Launch Challenge but dropped out in September due to financial reasons. The company was headquartered in Tucson and had a manufacturing site in California before having to let its close to 200 employees go.

We don’t know much about what we will see from Vector in the future, and neither the video nor other Vector sources have mentioned what Spalding’s role is in the second life of the company. Spalding’s history in the Air Force doesn’t seem to have anything to do with space, but rather with US-China relations and national security. Spalding does have a strong history in economics, which might be helpful with rebuilding the company.