SpaceX Vet’s Startup Readies Small Rockets for Takeoff

Before Elon Musk started SpaceX, he held a series of salons in Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, asking experts in the field for ideas on what a new-age rocket company should look like. A handful of people advising Musk urged him to make small, cheap rockets that would bring the cost of getting something into orbit down to $5 million from the going rate of about $100 million. In the years that followed, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. did manage to lower launch prices drastically, but it stuck to making bigger spaceships instead of pursuing the radical approach that some of Musk’s advisers desired.

A couple of these space dreamers, who helped get SpaceX off the ground, have now turned up with their own rocket startup called Vector Space Systems. They have radical plans and then some. Vector’s goal is to make a $1.5 million rocket that can carry small satellites into orbit. It expects to conduct 100 launches per year—a figure that would match the annual capacity of the entire aerospace industry.

To help meet this goal, Vector told Bloomberg that it raised $21 million from some of Silicon Valley’s largest venture capital firms, including Sequoia Capital, Shasta Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. “While Elon made space safe for investors, he did not fix the launch problem,” said Jim Cantrell, co-founder and chief executive officer of Vector. “We are making the rockets as simple as they can be made, building them like sausages and launching by the hundreds.”

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