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Phantom Space Startup wants to go into orbit against the grain


It is the last axis of Cantrell Ghost Space, a sea of ​​new commercial launchers that want to take advantage of the explosion of smaller and cheaper satellite designs and build rockets that can meet the growing demand to launch these charges into orbit. But as with the course with Cantrell, Phantom is trying to find success by swimming against the current.

Right now it’s one of the hottest rocket trends ride-share launchescustomers purchase places with their cargo available in a medium-sized or large rocket with a specific departure date. This is usually cheaper than a single launch to take customers to space cargo – SpaceX’s travel-sharing program costs a million dollars to launch a 200-pound payload (the Falcon 9 rocket can take a total of 22,800 kg in low Earth orbit). The company launched a shared travel mission on January 21, deploying 143 satellite records into orbit. He is continuing with a similar mission in June. On a stunning face in March, Rocket Lab, which has long held on to the idea of ​​building bigger rockets, introduced Neutron with the specific purpose of making ride-share shots and competing with the SpaceX Falcon 9.

The ride shares aren’t Phantom’s cup of tea. The company wants to establish its space footprint by massively manufacturing small rockets and launching a hundred a year. “We want to be Henry Ford of space,” Cantrell says. “We’re taking the opposite view of how we’re developing.” Just as Henry Ford did not reinvent the car, but as it was built, Phantom has not come out to reinvent rockets, but to produce them.

Nolatan? When SpaceX was launched, the supply chains of orbiting aerospace companies were embedded in the U.S. Department of Defense’s financial system. To be independent of that system, SpaceX itself decided to build everything, based on Musk’s money and a pile of investments over the years. It was a long-term commitment that bore fruit.

But the creators of Phantom decided they shouldn’t continue. Even in the last five years, aerospace supply chains have become lighter and more competitive, meaning that Phantom can buy the exact parts it wants instead of building them from scratch. He buys 3D printed engines from Colorado’s Ursa Major. The design of the flight computer was authorized by NASA, and uses a BeagleBone blackboard that some distributors sell for around $ 50. Other components, such as batteries and telemetry systems, are purchased through the missile defense supply chain.

Henry Ford’s analogy is not just a desire, it is a model for the company. Founder Michael D’Angelo said the car and rocket business follows similar growth curves: doubling production leads to certain economies of scale, linked to higher efficiency and fewer production errors. Computers and mobile devices followed a similar path. And he argues that supply chains are now old enough to allow for the rapid manufacturing that Phantom wants.

Right now, the company is looking for two types of rockets. There’s the 18.7-foot-tall Daytona, which should be able to lift about 450 pounds into space. It may be at the extreme end of what can be called a small rocket class, but according to Cantrell, the company’s analysis believes it is the perfect size for a profitable activity. Laguna, a 20.5-meter-high rocket that can lift a load of up to 1,200 kg. A version of Phantom Laguna is being developed with a recoverable first-phase booster, like the SpaceX Falcon 9 (with a similar vertical landing process).

Artist interpretation of the Daytona rocket flying into space.


He hopes to fill a gap in the phantom market. Although ride shares are cheap, customers have less control over the direction of the mission. The task of sharing the journey, like the train, is on a fixed route. If you want your satellite to make another orbit or route, you need to install expensive propellers that can take you there. Otherwise, you need to design its function for a new orbit, accept a not-so-beneficial orbit, or buy a ticket for another mission. And you better get the satellite fit with all the other loads that are taking over — these flights are fully booked.

Throwing a small rocket would cost more, but it gives the customer control. If you have a mission with very specific requirements (like replacing a particular satellite in a constellation, launching sensitive equipment, or doing an expensive tech demo), you probably want a dedicated flight rather than a shared walk. “There’s definitely interest and demand for these small rocket launches,” says Ryan Martineau, a space systems engineer at Utah’s Space Dynamics Laboratory.

Cantrell believes Phantom can meet that demand without throwing out a budget. In his view, the company’s approach could offer the price of a shared ride model for a third.

First, the company needs to get into space. The goal is to make Dayton’s first space flight in 2023. Classically says Cantrell, there is a 50% reliability rate on the first four flights of a new rocket. Phantom’s plans assume that at least one of its first four flights will reach orbit. The Air Force recently signed a take-off contract at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and is currently seeking permission to depart from Cape Canaveral Florida — the first major initial steps if 100 are actually launched a year.

Phantom also wants to build satellites and turn them into a one-stop shop for customers. Buying Cantrell’s StratSpace this week will be a key part of this side of the business. The company is working on constellation prototypes for customers and is part of a team that is developing a $ 1.2 billion commercially funded science mission (specific details will not be released in a few months). He has been working quietly on a communication network called Phantom Cloud, which is basically a network that other networks can use to communicate with each other or with surface systems. Cantrell calls it a “satellite internet space”.

The truth is, Phantom doesn’t necessarily have to beat SpaceX and other big rocket makers. “As the small startup market matures, I believe there will be a large number of customers taking advantage of that capability,” says Martineau. “I think it’s unlikely that one will become dominant and the other.”

Coexistence is good, says Cantrell: “We recognize that SpaceX has excellently developed this great reusable space transportation system, but we believe that this is at least two (perhaps more) different economic systems in the space transportation ecosystem.” He hopes the other phantom will be a pioneer.


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