People of Science - Jim Cantrell | Phantom Space, Entrepreneurship, Building things, and the SpaceX Origin Story

Today In Space

Jul 9 2022 • 1 hr 13 mins

On this episode, we interview Jim Cantrell for another segment of People of Science. We learn about Jim's childhood inspiration in STEM and go through his time at JPL, working with the French Space Agency, and being a founding member of SpaceX (that's just up until the 2010's, there's more!). Jim shares his experience as part of the crew with Elon Musk the day SpaceX was created while they were trying to buy rockets from the Russians for a Mars mission.

Jim shares his journey as an entrepeneur, maker, and builder and we discuss his lessons learned from his time at Vector Space. Jim's current venture, Phantom Space Corporation is looking to change daily access to space by becoming the "Henry Ford of Space". Their first launch is NET August 2023, and did we mention they are using Ursa Minor's 3D printed rocket engine??

All this and more on this episode of Today In Space!

Ways to support us:

Get 20% OFF @manscaped + Free Shipping with promo code SPACE at! #ad #manscapedpod

How to Support the podcast:

Buy a 3D printed gift from our shop
Donate at

Follow us on social:

- @todayinspacepod on instragram & twitter
- @todayinspace on TikTok
- /TodayInSpacePodcast on Facebook

Share the podcast with friends & family!

Episode Timeline:

00:00 Jim Cantrell shares his origin story of childhood building & making anything, like soapbox go-carts
04:09 Get 20% OFF @manscaped + Free Shipping with promo code SPACE at! #ad #manscapedpod
07:36 Jim found Business & Entrepreneurship later in his STEM career and discovered it gave him the scientific freedom he was looking for
09:41 Jim Cantrell's Space Industry Journey, from JPL to the French Space Agency
13:20 Jim Cantrell's Space Industry Journey, from house arrest for espionage in Russia to founding SpaceX with Elon Musk
16:45 Looking back at Gov-Space work, self-realization of hypocrisy, and a change of heart to leave the Space Industry for Racing
18:00 Startups bring Jim back in! Commercial Space lures him back with the ability to build & make now! SkyBox Imaging, Planet, Paragon, Lunar Express & more!
19:15 In 2015, Falcon 1 mass production memory leads to in-house small rocket need for Vector Space Origins
21:00 Phantom Space Corp. thesis: complete the circle for daily access to space using mass manufactured rockets. Origin Story, COVID layoffs, rebuilding from the ashes
23:00 Elon's vertical Integration mindset, "I just wasn't of that mindset, but he was absolutely correct, for the time."
24:30 Creating an ecosystem outside the system, to change the system
25:40 Engines are the solution for Phantom Space, Ursa Major/NASA licensed software cuts down ALOT of time/cost to development
29:20 Getting the size right: Astra/Vector suffered from limited mass to orbit: Where 450kg to orbit came from
31:00 From Rockets to Satellites, Phantom Space is developing their commercial space business to develop space applications
34:00 Many Aerospace Engineers moves to Tech from Satellites because things were too slow. Launch Access can help
36:00 The old promises of Space & Shuttle, Get-away-and-go canister precludes the Cubesat. Human Space Safety vs. Commercial Flight
39:00 SpaceX may not be around if the Space Shuttle didn't retire
40:00 Elon Musk in his 20's, the feeling that Space could be done 'better' & more 'efficient'
42:00 AG3D Printing is here to bring your ideas into reality with 3D printing! Free quote on your next project at, support us by shopping at our Etsy shop at
45:35 Elon Musk, Jim Cantrell, and Mike Griffin go to Russia to get ICBMs for Mars Oasis mission, and SpaceX was born on the flight back
57:00 Jim Cantrell's learned lessons from Vector Space and Phantom Space Corp's origin
1:00:00 Phantom Space ready for hot-fire test, first launch NET August 2023

You Might Like

Flow Podcast
Flow Podcast
Estúdios Flow
Science Friday
Science Friday
Science Friday and WNYC Studios
Hidden Brain
Hidden Brain
Hidden Brain
The Daily
The Daily
The New York Times