TUCSON – On Friday, Vector Launch announced the departure of one of its founders, CEO Jim Cantrell, “in response to a significant change in financing.” In the statement posted to its website, Vector said it was “undertaking a pause of operations.”
Devastated employees learned the news when they arrived at work only to find the doors locked:
Today I went to work.
I was running about 20 minutes later than normal.
I was excited to stay late and get work done.
It was my dream job.
I moved across the country to live my dream of working on rockets.
Today, that dream ended.
— Madison Telles (@rocketmads) August 9, 2019
Vector announces departure of Jim Cantrell from Vector and appointment of John Garvey as new CEO. The following statement outlines the current state of the business. More to follow in the coming days. https://t.co/Ckw1mHuEuI
— VECTOR (@vectorlaunch) August 10, 2019
According to SpaceNews.com, the move happened when “one of Vector’s largest venture capital backers, Sequoia, withdrew its funding for the company.”
Vector co-founder John Garvey is taking over leadership and a “core team is evaluating options on completing the development of the company’s Vector-R small launch vehicle, while also supporting the Air Force and other government agencies on programs such as the recent ASLON-45 award.”
The company plans to make more information available next week.
In October 2016, Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry and his crack public relations crew had pushed out glowing reports about the future of the project. The always Pima County-crony reliable Tucson Sentinel reported that “Vector forecasts a $290 million economic impact over five years as they build its 40-foot-tall rockets, and estimates about 90 indirect jobs will be created as a result of the expansion.”
At the time, Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson, Ramon Valadez, Ray Carroll, and Richard Elias approved Huckelberry’s recommendation to enter into negotiations for “a 15- to 25-year lease with either Vector Space Systems, Inc. or a developer who will construct and lease the facility to Vector.”
Vector and World View were used by Sun Corridor, formerly TREO, to promote plans for Pima County’s “Aerospace Research Campus” (ARC).
Pima County taxpayers’ money was used to build World View’s facilities, which included a launch pad for the company’s space tourism balloons. Pima County taxpayers also purchased equipment and furniture for the company. As the ADI reported previously, documents show that taxpayers purchased a tracking antenna for $90,845, a weather station for $148,936, window coverings for $28,015, systems furniture for $190,339, manufacturing specialty furniture for $109,150, and lockers for $10,337.
The company has been trying to regain credibility after one of its balloons exploded in December 2017. A video of the explosion obtained by the Arizona Daily Independent, went viral at the time. In it, viewers can see the hydrogen-filled balloon explode and send flames shooting into the sky. As the ADI reported in December 2017, the explosion rocked buildings up to one mile away.
Pima County spent $10 million in HURF (Highway User Revenue Funds) to widen and expand Aerospace Parkway, as part of the ARC scheme.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, the Pima Association of Governments’ regional council approved the $10 million award and the Aerospace Parkway project had been added to PAG’s five-year plan.
The Star reported that “promoting economic development” was a “key rationale for the project, according to Pima County Department of Transportation’s application.”
“Build it and they will come,” then-County Transportation Director Priscilla Cornelio told a Star reporter.
“A lot of money was spent on the road in the Research Park for the expected growth and that hasn’t happened; putting taxpayers in the back seat, again. That is not the role of government. Pima County should be focusing on providing good roads, infrastructure, public safety and beautiful parks for our working families rather than engaging in highly speculative real estate deals with taxpayer monies. Just focus on the basics, which we haven’t done for the past 25 years,” said Supervisor Ally Miller.ARC