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Tucson company building rockets for private launches

Making satellite launches more affordable
Posted at 8:16 PM, Apr 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-04 23:16:35-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — A Tucson company is getting in on the ground floor of a business that aims for the stars. Phantom Space is a company building rockets and satellites for the private space industry.

The world of space flight is changing with a lot of private companies taking over launch duties. And now a Tucson based company is getting ready to work its way into being a major player in that growing industry.

The Daytona Rocket from Phantom Space will use a total of eight small engines.

The Daytona can be smaller because satellites are getting much smaller.

Phantom co-founder Jim Cantrell says, “So now once you have small, very inexpensive satellites, you can consider the possibility of putting lots of them up there.”

The engine Phantom will use gives it an advantage over some of its competitors. It’s made in Colorado. Cantrell says a lot of rocket companies depend on rocket engines from Russia or Ukraine.

The Ukraine situation illustrates another important thing for private companies that build satellites and rockets.

They are launching small, low flying satellites that allow anyone to buy surveillance pictures that only governments used to be able to get—and they needed huge satellites to get them.

“So it's changed the dynamic of the war completely," Cantrell said. "Ukraine for its own part, doesn't really need its own spy satellite fleet to know where the Soviet or the Russian troops are moving.”

More routine uses could be for things like agriculture and land use planning.

Cantrell says he has about 35 people working in Tucson. That number may rise to about 150.

“A lot of our engineering folks are making 100 to $200,000 a year," Cantrell said. "So around here, that's a very good salary.”

And Cantrell says Phantom’s rocket should be ready for its first flight next year.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.