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Phantom rumbles again...

Posted 12-09-2011 at 10:34 AM by PhantomCruiser
Updated 12-09-2011 at 01:36 PM by PhantomCruiser

After a relatively quiet year, the wheels at Phantom Manufacturing are finally beginning to turn again. The repeated failures of Phantom’s Banshee rocket had begun to call into question their ability to deliver on this key military contract, but the successful launch (and planned destruction) of the block-I Banshee has all of Phantom Mfg celebrating today. We were able to talk with a few senior company representatives just after the launch, during a hot-dog-fest, high atop the Vehicle Assembly Building at Wideawake Spaceport. With grill tongs in-hand, Jon Kirby, the enigmatic and self-titled “boss man” of Phantom handed out bratwurst, dogs and “sliders” to anyone who wandered by with an empty plate. Also serving was both Cleveland and Nancy Davis, and Victor Patel.

First off, why hot dogs?
Kirby: Tradition, perhaps more a bit of superstition. All our successes to date involved food of some sort afterward. We ate after very moon mission, every satellite launch, every test fire, even the sounding rockets. But one thing after another cancelled the “celebrations” after our block-I launches. Every sports team will tell you “respect the streak”, so, here we are.

Why the long quiet period, it’s been more than a year since you last launch?
Nancy Davis: Not quite. It’s been a year since our last Banshee launch here at AIA. We’ve been quite busy at Jarvis Island. With the planned construction changes due to happen here at Wideawake, it made good sense to start ramping up operations at Jarvis.

Would you say that all the kinks have been work out of the Banshee rocket?
Davis (Cleveland): Well, you may not have noticed, but we have not had a single fault with the Block-II version of the rocket. All our failures centered on the smaller rocket we were using, and only then, the ones we had for the military to test out some of its weapon systems.

Just that single contract?
Kirby: Yes, odd, don’t you think? For a triple redundant system for fail in the exact same way like that.
Davis (Cleveland): Yeah, really strange.
Patel: Very strange indeed.
(In unison): Hmmmm
Nancy: Boys, cut it out.
Kirby: Seriously, there is some legal action pending, and we’re really not allowed to discuss it with the investigation still going on.
Cleveland: But it is fair to say that, yes, we’ve solved the primary issue. And I think I echo everyone here when I say congratulations to the crew of the HMAS Hobart. The technical aspects of the test will be released later. But in short, all the ships involved with the test were able to successfully target the rocket during the flight. The Italians with their modified 747 were able to engage first, but they kind of had an altitude advantage. The surface ships had to wait until the rocket popped over the horizon. The Aussies won the lottery and were clear to destroy the target after 87 seconds of flight time.

How many nations took part in this exercise?
Nancy: In addition to the Italians and the Australians, there were two Russian cruisers, Two United States cruisers, a Norwegian and Japanese cruiser. There was also a French frigate, a Spanish frigate, two from Argentina, one Lithuanian and another from India, along with an Indian and Pakistani destroyer. The United Kingdom provided the HMS Prince of Whales as a command ship, along with HMS Battleaxe. All in all is was a pretty impressive battle group. It should make for a reasonably good picture, and is proof that missile defense is on the forefront of many countries defense departments.

Mr. Kirby, It seems that the Securities and Exchange Commission have brought up some issues with your operations?
Kirby: What, again, or do you mean still? Seriously, the SEC just can’t understand that despite not having a conventional business model, Phantom can still turn out a profit. And because it’s a private company and not traded, I’m either a mobster, or the anti-Christ. We do more than space related business. And don’t forget, I’m a chemist, not a rocket scientist. If you have a garden, flower bed, or swimming pool, there is a good change you’re using a product than our company had a hand in developing. I also don’t look at individual sections of the company in terms of what “makes money” and what doesn’t.

Can you talk about what seems to make “less money” than the others?
Patel: For me, it’s infrastructure. It’s a money pit. But, millions spent up front can save you billions over the long-haul.
Cleveland: I feel the same way about R&D.
Kirby: I could drop space operations, and take off with chemical, plastics and pharmaceutical and go from being a “just plain billionaire” and became really wealthy. But I’m choosing to take a longer view, for the long term health of mankind, by delving into space technology.

How about the moon? Do you ever see it as a money making venture?
Kirby: I really don’t see us ever making money on our lunar operations. The whole thing could be made of platinum and I don’t think it’d be worth bringing it Earth-side. There is knowledge to be gained though. And my argument is that sometimes knowledge is worth the money. And since it’s my company, I win the argument.
Patel: And, we’re very near the point of transferring the base at Copernicus over to Spectre Mining Corp. We’ll still maintain a presence on the moon, but in a different capacity.
Nancy: Also, we’ve been contacted by a few prominent universities. Several are interested in expanding their science departments, and now that a majority of the underground structures are complete, we’ve plenty available laboratory space. And expansion isn’t as difficult as we’d initially thought.

Kirby: Told you, just because we weren’t making noise on a launch pad here at AIA, doesn’t mean that we weren’t busy. Gus has made good use of the tunnel boring machine we sent him, in pieces of course. Plus the second Sterling reactor was brought on-line two days ago. And a third is being processed at our launch site at Overton Island.

You’ve been sighted touring Ingalls Shipyard in Pascagoula; can you tell us what was going on there?
Kirby: Well, it’s not exactly feasible to continue using a luxury yacht as a command ship. So Phantom is looking to partner up with a few other companies to purchase a retired Navy ship, something along the lines of a WASP class. There are a lot of wrinkles to be worked out first though.

Such as?
Nancy: Mainly operating expenses. Navy ships are pretty costly as far as head count goes. Many countries are willing to let us “borrow” a ship for recovery operations, but having something permanently attached to the island here would be nice. Not essential, just nice to have.

What do you see as the next biggest challenge for Phantom Manufacturing?
Patel: Our upcoming station in LEO, I’m the project lead, and it’s keeping me busy.
Cleveland: (laughing) Retirement. Nancy here might say that the only thing I can do right is go to work.
Nancy: (In a mock Jamaican accent) You can’t retire mon. What would you do den?
Cleveland: (laughing harder) She’s been married to me for 41 years, and she still can’t do a Jamaican accent.
Nancy: It doesn’t help that you’re Jamaican, but speak like someone from lower Alabama.
Cleveland: I am from lower Alabama. ROLL TIDE!
Nancy: Geaux Tigers!
Kirby: Well, my biggest challenge will be to find some big burly security guys and get them trained as astronauts.

Security astronauts?
Kirby: Yes, Gus is really not going to want to come home. He’s given a lot to running the operations at Copernicus. It’s going to be tough for him to give that up and I’m almost afraid that I’ll have to send up a few goons to literally drag him back here.

Some of the crew have been up there for quite some time; will coming back pose any health risks?
Nancy: Dr. Simms has given all the crew members a clean bill of health. And thanks to a pretty detailed exercise regimen, a few of them, Gus included, are actually in better physical shape than when they started the mission.

When can we look for another big launch from Phantom?
Kirby: (grinning and pointing downward) They’re stacking it now. The manned Sydney Smith should launch in about 6 weeks.

As we depart the rooftop festivities (with a chili and onions bratwurst), it’s hard not to be taken in by the camaraderie displayed by the Phantom employees. With their Banshee program back on the right track, they’ve ample reason to be enthusiastic. We’ll be keeping a closer eye out on Phantom as they prepare for their next launch. Until then here’s wishing all the best to the men and women of Phantom Manufacturing.
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  1. Old Comment
    IronRain's Avatar
    All I can say:
    Posted 12-09-2011 at 11:28 AM by IronRain IronRain is offline
  2. Old Comment
    n122vu's Avatar
    Good to see the wheels at Phantom haven't stopped turning. Always enjoy the updates.
    Posted 12-10-2011 at 01:37 AM by n122vu n122vu is offline
  3. Old Comment
    Cheers on all accounts, save one ... you need to fire Cleveland. Roll Tide? Seriously?!?!
    Posted 12-10-2011 at 05:19 AM by cymrych cymrych is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Pablo49's Avatar
    Originally Posted by cymrych View Comment
    Roll Tide? Seriously?!?!
    Clearly just jealous.
    Posted 12-10-2011 at 06:53 AM by Pablo49 Pablo49 is offline
  5. Old Comment
    PhantomCruiser's Avatar
    Haha, if I can ever write the whole "back-story" some of that can be explained. Cleveland Davis is an American, but born in Jamaica (both parents are Jamaican) and raised near Mobile Alabama and eventually flew fighters in the Air Force. He and Kirby worked at Vaught together in Nashville after Kirby graduated from Vanderbilt.

    Kirby has been estranged from his family because he didn't follow the path set for him (Annapolis followed by long career in the US Navy or doctor/lawyer). He struck out to do his own thing, and now thoroughly enjoys his self-made fortune and the occasional opportunity to tell his rich mother and father to stick it.
    Posted 12-10-2011 at 05:11 PM by PhantomCruiser PhantomCruiser is offline
  6. Old Comment
    ky's Avatar
    Originally Posted by PhantomCruiser View Comment
    Cleveland Davis is an American, but born in Jamaica (both parents are Jamaican)
    Nice backstory so far
    Posted 12-11-2011 at 11:15 PM by ky ky is offline

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