Phantom Space doctors NASA Orion photo to portray fake rocket factory and vehicle

Around 10 p.m. EST on January 17, Phantom Space Inc. tweeted a photo that appeared to show a development model of their Daytona launch vehicle at one of their facilities. However, Space Twitter was quick to notice inconsistencies within the photo which were on par for a render…

“Progress at Phantom continues as we are constructing our first development model for the Daytona launch vehicle,” the tweet read. “This development model is a manufacturing and design pathfinder of the flight system and will be complete in Q1 this year.”

Without question, the original tweet (which has since been deleted after facing scrutiny) intended to portray a Phantom facility with a real world rocket model.

Here is a screenshot of the now-deleted tweet sent by Phantom Space Inc.

Here is a high resolution copy of the fake photo:

This may not look too suspicious to someone just scrolling on Twitter, but do not underestimate the community that is Space Twitter. Let’s start with a minor flaw in the image.

Here you can see that a post is cutoff when compared to the other posts visible on the trailer carrying the design pathfinder. Perhaps this is a sign that the trailer is real and just the rocket in its cradle is fake?

What’s going on with the post in the bottom middle?

Now let’s talk about that cradle. How do they plan to remove the rocket from it? There does not appear to be any latching mechanism that would allow for the retaining rings to open, not to mention no visible lift points. This entire vehicle screams render despite being passed off as a real environment.

Finally, what even is this?

Could this be a sign of a source picture?

With the help of T-Zero Systems on Twitter, we were able to find the source image used to make this composite picture. It turns out it was actually a picture from NASA showing the delivery of an Orion Launch Escape System part for the Artemis 1 mission.

Those are real people doing real work on a real piece of hardware. They’re just not Phantom Space employees working on Phantom Space hardware … unless you interpret Phantom literally.

Click here to view the source image on Flickr

The company even put a rendering of their logo on the wall to try to make it look like their facility. Rocket renders are completely acceptable and even exciting when promoting a future mission for an unflown vehicle, but there’s a big gap between that type of transparency and this level of deception.

Phantom Space Inc should be ashamed for attempting to pass this photo off as showing their own facility, employees, and a physical vehicle.

Phantom deleted the tweet showing this photo without a disclaimer and have replaced it with the still misleading “Rendering of [the] factory & Daytona” disclaimer. They are not disclosing that the source of the background image and its employees are actually NASA and not Phantom. This tweet has also since been deleted.

While researching for this article, I have since learned a little more about Phantom Space Inc. Specifically about one of the founders and the current CEO. Jim Cantrell co-founded Phantom Space Inc. in 2020, and they have been developing their Daytona launch vehicle since then. All that currently exists are renders of the vehicle as it is understandably still in development.

You may recognize his name, though, as he was also the co-founder and previous CEO of Vector Launch. As you may know, Vector filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and had some of the assets sold off.

However, Vector appears to be making a comeback with a new CEO and a new plan moving forward: focusing on suborbital flights and slowly progressing towards orbital flight.

Jim Cantrell is no longer associated with Vector as he stated in a tweet when Vector announced it was resuming operations.

In the following Twitter thread, Jim talks about his plans for Phantom Space Inc.

While I do truly want to see everyone succeed in space, posting composite pictures without a disclaimer and only correcting them when you are called out does not lead to a positive impression or trust. This, in turn, leads to people taking a closer, more critical look into one’s company and scrutinizing more details.

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