Just a week after winning a $3.4 million US Air Force contract to lift experimental satellites to low Earth orbit, Vector Launch has abruptly replaced its CEO and suspended operations amid financial problems.
Vector published a short one-paragraph statement on the company’s website on August 9 as rumors began to crescendo around the ailing company. In the statement, the company alluded to “a significant change in financing” as the primary cause of it suspending operations.
Although it remains unconfirmed, industry sources have indicated that the “significant change in financing” is as a result of its largest venture capital backers, Sequoia pulling funding. Sequoia has been a major backer of vector through both its Series A and B funding rounds.
Following the completion of the Vector’s Series B round of funding that saw it attract $70 million in capital investment, Sequoia appeared to be confident with the company’s progress. “Vector has grown rapidly and we look forward to continuing the journey with this tenacious team,” said Bill Coughran, a Partner at Sequoia. It is as of yet unclear what occurred between October 2019 and last week to sour this relationship.
The shakeup at Vector came just days after the company was awarded a $3.4 million Air Force contract to launch the Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer (ASLON)-45 mission. ASLON-45 falls under the Small Rocket Program-Orbital (SRP-O) initiative, which is run by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s launch enterprise experimental division. It is expected to carry multiple CubeSats to a 45-degree low Earth Orbit in the third quarter of 2021, although it is unclear if the shakeup at Vector will affect this deadline.
Vector has confirmed that a core team will remain with the company to evaluate the possibility of completing the development of the Vector-R vehicle and fulfilling its contractual obligations. Additional details regarding the nature of problems at Vector and the company’s plan moving forward are expected sometime this week.