Astra changes strategy and scraps current rockets after test launch – TechCrunch
Astra CEO Chris Kemp told investors on Thursday that the company will no longer launch its current light truck, the Rocket 3, and will instead redo all launches on a single large rocket. significantly more is still under development.
It was a big change for the company, which operated on a hunch that customers were willing to risk a certain number of rocket failures to support increased launch cadence and lower costs. Kemp summarizes the point to TechCrunch back in May: “I think a lot of people expect every debut to be perfect. I think what Astra has to do, really, is we have to have so many launches that nobody thinks about anymore. “
But it seems everyone – including Astra herself – is really thinking about it. This is especially true after Astra’s TROPICS 1 mission failed in June, the first of a trio of launches the company conducted on behalf of NASA. That debut, much anticipated by the company and especially Kemp, ends in a loss of payload after the upper deck encountered an anomaly that caused it to stop working before reaching its target speed.
At the end of May this year, Kemp told investors that “If two out of three [TROPICS launches] success, not failure in mission. It’s just a lower refresh rate for the constellation. “
But the move from Rocket 3 to the larger vehicle, Rocket 4, marks a dramatic shift in strategy that suggests a larger shift in tone. The difference in payload alone is seismic: Astra says it is increasing the Rocket 4’s load capacity from 300 kg – already a big change from the Rocket 3’s 50 kg – to 600 kg.
Kemp explains the shift to investors is based on customer preferences and market developments. “We started talking to our customers and it became clear that after two of the four flights we had had failed, the opportunity to fly in a vehicle had received all the attention and energy. from our team in the past. The year is also favorable for them,” he said. He added that the company has seen growing demand from major constellation operators for higher load capacity and greater reliability.
Specifically, that means no more flights by 2022. Astra is considering conducting several test flights of Rocket 4 and Launch System 2.0, of which Rocket 4 is part, but Kemp did not provide any specific timeline for when the flights could take place, saying only that the start of commercial operations next year would depend on the success of the flights. fly there.
In addition to these changes, Astra also reported growth for its space products division, such as Astra spacecraft engines. The company secured 103 committed orders for that engine, built upon Astra acquired Apollo Fusion last year, and the company will open a 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility to support the production of that product. The company is predicting the sale of spacecraft engines will generate most of its revenue.
The change in strategy follows an announcement that Astra has secured a $100 million committed equity base with B. Riley Principal Capital II over the next two years. That’s in addition to the $200 million cash fund the company currently has on hand.