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Tucson Startup On Track To Build Rockets

A Tucson space-launch company just completed a successful test of its engines for NASA. Full scale rockets are next.

Through a grant from NASA as well as economic incentives from Pima County and the state of Arizona, Tucson-based Vector Space Systems is planning to build 100 rockets a year dedicated to microsatellites.

CEO Jim Cantrell said Tuscon will remain the headquarters and manufacturing hub, and, once complete, rockets will be shipped to places like Florida and Alaska for launching.

“There’s a nice little budding manufacturing industry already in Tucson, so we plan on using that supplier network, plus the generally high-skilled manufacturing labor that’s already here,” Cantrell said. 

Vector’s economic impact to Arizona is estimated to be $250 million over the next four years, including 200 new jobs for the location.

As a startup, Vector is not expected to be cash-flow positive until 2019, Cantrell said. The company’s first nine-month revenues total $5 million, and current contracts project a $160 million revenue stream, he said.

Heather van Blokland was a host at KJZZ from 2016 to 2021.