Today’s Pathfinder episode features Phantom Space cofounder and CEO Jim Cantrell. The Tucson-based space transportation company is focused on the mass production of rockets.
Today’s Pathfinder episode features Phantom Space cofounder and CEO Jim Cantrell. The Tucson-based space transportation company is focused on the mass production of rockets. Jim began his career at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab and the French Space Agency (CNES), working on Mars exploration technologies and a joint French-Soviet Mars program. He was a founding member of SpaceX, serving as its first VP of business development. He later co-founded Moon Express, a company focused on commercial lunar robotic transportation and Vector Space, a micro-launch vehicle company.
Phantom primer: Phantom’s strategy focuses around a central idea: mass production of rockets. Instead of going all-in on vertical integration, Cantrell’s choosing to leverage the expertise of outside specialists for key technology—for example, propulsion company Ursa Major is fueling Phantom’s rocket engines. By providing some but not all the R&D, the company can operate with a substantially leaner core staff.
The thought is that this mass-produced, “Henry Ford”-like development and production approach will substantially lower costs and increase efficiency. Cantrell says that Phantom’s price tag to get to space will be roughly $100M, substantially lower than competitors. The company’s product roadmap includes:
- The Daytona, which is a two-stage rocket designed to deliver payloads up to 450 kgs to LEO, is expected to first launch in late 2024/early 2025.
- Its larger sibling, Laguna, has a planned lift capacity of 1,200 kgs to LEO with the first launch expected in 2027. The Laguna will have both an expendable and reusable configuration for its first stage similar to SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
In addition to Phantom’s early days, Mo and Jim discuss:
- The infamous Elon and Russian ICBM story
- Learnings from Vector
- The evolution of venture capitalists and space
- Pros/cons of vertical integration
- Team construction
And much more…
This episode is brought to you by SpiderOak, a US-based software company that builds space cybersecurity products and solutions for civilian, military, and commercial space operations. Learn more at https://spideroak.com/
• Chapters •
00:00 – Intro and SpiderOak Ad
01:30 – Jim, Elon, and Russia
07:05 – Why did Elon reach out to you at the time?
09:48 – What is Phantom Space?
15:32 – Relying on an external supply chain
17:38 – To vertically integrate, or not to vertically integrate?
21:17 – Development timelines
26:07 – Other products outside of launch
28:08 – Team construction
34:52 – SpiderOak Ad break
35:40 – Vector: What went well and what were the key challengers?
42:16 – Space VCs: then vs now
49:55 – What company are you most excited about?
51:29 – Alternative methods to reach orbit
53:43 – Is it harder to build a new launch vehicle or a winning Formula 1 car?