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Vast Announces Deal to Acquire Startup Launcher

By Rachel Jewett | February 21, 2023

Illustration of Orbiter, Launcher’s space tug and hosted payload platform. Photo: Launcher/John Kraus

Commercial space station company Vast is acquiring Launcher for its space tug and hosted payload products. Vast announced the acquisition on Tuesday, terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Vast is a new company and just announced its debut in September 2022, founded by Jed McCaleb, co-founder of payments company Stellar. The company plans to build an artificial gravity station in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) with “many times the volume of the International Space Station.” 

As part of the acquisition, all of Launcher’s team members will join Vast for a combined team of more than 120 employees. The company will be headquartered in Long Beach, California. 

Launcher, founded in 2017, just launched its first space tug, Orbiter SN1, on SpaceX’s January rideshare mission. Orbiter SN1 successfully separated using its own separation system, however it stopped operating when solar panels did not generate power due to an issue with the GPS antenna system. It failed to deploy customer payloads. 

Vast said that it will continue the Orbiter space tug and hosted payload products as well as Launcher’s staged combustion rocket engine E-2, and will focus on liquid rocket engine products instead of developing its own launch vehicle. Orbiter will continue to support current and future payload customers. 

Max Haot, founder and CEO of Launcher will also join Vast as president. He will oversee the Orbiter, E-2 and space station programs as well as engineering, manufacturing, marketing, finance, and facilities teams. 

“By joining the Vast team, we are able to work with an incredible team of experienced engineering professionals currently at Vast and further pursue and develop our products and technologies to date, to include our Orbiter space tug and hosted payload products as well as our high-performance staged combustion rocket engine, E-2. Our investors, customers, and partners are also in full support and excited for what’s next,” Haot commented. 

Vast said it plans to reach orbit this year to develop and test its on-orbit space station components and subsystems. 

“The Vast team will be greatly enhanced by combining with the talented and driven people at Launcher. We have all been extremely impressed with what they have achieved so far. Speed of execution is a critical element of our mission and Launcher has shown that this is in their DNA. We are really looking forward to joining forces to accelerate our quest to make commercial space habitation a reality,” said Vast founder McCaleb.