The space transportation technology company has hired Mark Lester, former CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corporation, as Vice President of Launch Operations.
This hire coincides with the company’s new 32,000 square foot facility in Tucson, which will be Phantom’s first rocket factory. These expansion plans are largely made possible thanks to the $5 million in seed investments it raised earlier this year.
Phantom develops and manufactures space transportation – like rockets and satellites – in order to “democratize” space access and promote space commerce. The company’s key goals are based on the idea that the need to take advantage of on-orbit capabilities has gone unmet up until now.
Phantom says it will launch hundreds of satellites and rockets a year, which would be significantly more than competitors like Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The company is planning its first orbital launch for early 2023.
The first round of the company’s rockets will be built at the big Tucson facility. The facility will also host the build of the Phantom Daytona rocket, which, the company says, will be “the first fully US built mass manufactured launch vehicle.” Additionally, the Tucson facility will produce several satellite programs and other classified and unclassified space-related projects.
Launch operations will be based in California at the Vandenburg Space Force Base. Here, Lester will oversee the launches of the Daytona rocket and other launch efforts. He’ll also be responsible for deploying Phantom’s global launch strategy.
Lester’s career experience so far should help him in this new role. He’s held leadership positions at several companies in tech, aviation and space industries. In his most recent job as CEO at Alaska Aerospace Corporation, Lester provided space launch capabilities, which included operating the Pacific Spaceport Complex – Alaska (PSCA) on Kodiak Island, Alaska.
Lester is also a veteran of the United States Air Force, where he spent his time in space operations, engineering, and intelligence analysis. He has a Masters of Engineering in Space Operations from the University of Colorado.
Jim Cantrell, Phantom’s CEO, is excited to have Lester on board.
“We’ve made it known that our goal is to become the Henry Ford of space transportation,” he said in a statement. “With someone like Mark, a seasoned space technology executive, we are one step closer to achieving this.”