Astra changes strategy and abandons current rocket after failed launch – TechCrunch


Astra CEO Chris Kemp told investors on Thursday that the company will no longer use its current light rocket Rocket 3 to launch payloads, but will instead relocate all launches on a larger rocket still in development.

That’s a big change for the company, which operates on a gut feeling that customers are willing to risk a certain number of rocket failures in order to increase launch cadence and reduce costs. Kemp summed it up to TechCrunch in May: “I think the expectation from a lot of people is that every launch has to be perfect. I think what Astra has to do, really, we have to do so many launches that No one thinks about it anymore.”

But it looks like people – including Astra itself – are really thinking about it. This was especially true in the wake of the failed launch of Astra’s TROPICS 1 mission in June, the first of three launches by the company on behalf of NASA. The company, and Kemp in particular, was looking forward to the launch, which ended in a loss of payload after the superior experienced an anomaly that caused it to shut down before reaching its target speed.

Until May of this year, Camp told investors, “If two-thirds [TROPICS launches] It succeeded, it’s not a mission failure. It’s just the lower refresh rate for Constellation. “

But the move from Rocket 3 to the larger vehicle, Rocket 4, marks a major change in strategy, meaning a bigger change in tune. The payload difference alone is staggering: Astra says it’s increasing the Rocket 4’s payload capacity from 300kg – already a huge change from the Rocket 3’s 50kg – to 600kg.

Camp explained the shift as investors based on customer preferences and market evolution. “We started talking to our customers, and it became clear that after two of the four flights we flew were unsuccessful, the opportunity to fly in a vehicle that had received all the attention and energy from our team over the past year was also in their favor,” he said. He added that the company has seen increasing demand from large constellation operators for higher payload capacity and higher reliability.

Specifically, that means no more flights in 2022. Astra is considering several test flights of the Rocket 4 and Launch System 2.0, of which the Rocket 4 is a part, but Kemp did not provide any specific timetable for when those test flights might take place, other than that commercial operations starting next year will be Depends on the success of those flights.

In addition to these changes, Astra also reported growth in its space products segment, particularly Astra spacecraft engines. The company has received 103 committed orders for the engine, which builds on Astra’s acquisition of Apollo Fusion last year, and will open a 60,000-square-foot production facility to support manufacturing of the product. The company expects sales of spacecraft engines to account for the majority of its revenue.

The change in strategy follows the announcement that Astra has secured $100 million in committed equity financing with B. Riley Principal Capital II over the next two years. This is in addition to the $200 million cash runway the company currently has.



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