Vector vs. Stanford

Stanford vs. Vector

Both are Arizona-based launch providers (or in process of becoming). What is the difference?

Stanford Systems vehicles tend to be a little bigger in diameter to compensate for Vector’s slightly higher specific impulse numbers on the propulsion system being used (solid vs. hybrid), but they are approximately the same height. Stanford Systems birds are a little heavier as well due to the same principle.

Even with Vector’s component-count reduction, Stanford Systems tends to have a simpler, more linear design.


Currently the most powerful Stanford design can only launch payloads to suborbital (approx. 330,000 feet) where as Vector (when operational) claims to be able to put about 50 kg (about 100 lbs) into orbit.

We seek to compete with an orbital variant of our Daedalus PSC system that uses design reuse to integrate a DBeta plus composite second-stage to a Daedalus propulsion model (basically a booster in this capacity). It will require a redesign of our flight control module, basically miniaturizing it so that it can guide a payload in an orbital path and re-enter its second stage.

Different Purposes

Stanford Systems launch systems are designed for use with manned ascents. Whereas recently we realize that the unmanned market might be mor lucrative, our design path is set up for very reliable propulsion and flight systems that will make our offering even more attractive, we think.

Vector Space Systems launch systems are interesting in that they are primarily designed for unmanned orbital satellite ascents. Micro and nanosats, combined with their software-customization approach to nanosat development and support, makes their business model interesting.

Technologies Used

The main difference between the two makes is the propulsion fuels and motors. Stanford Systems uses primarily solid polybutadine-based metallic systems where as Vector uses a hybrid approach using liquid oxygen and polypropylene fuel. Stanford Systems designs are probably more reliable because of the simplicity of design and one main engine instead of multiple in the Vector version.

This leads to a slightly higher refurb cost on the Stanford Systems side of things.

Payload is interesting as well as part of Vector’s business model is specifically for successfully deploying orbiting nanosats. Stanford Systems (in their science variant) is only capable currently of lofting 24 science bays that stay with the airframe and are recovered at splash-down.