astra changes strategy and ditches current rocket in the wake of launch debacles

Astra CEO Chris Kemp told investors Thursday that the company will be no longer launch payloads with its current lightweight vehicle, Rocket 3, and will instead remanifest all launches on a considerably larger rocket that’s still under development.

It’s a big change for the company, which has operated on the hunch that customers are willing to risk a certain number of rocket failures in favor of increased launch cadence and lower costs. Kemp summarized the perspective to TechCrunch back in May: “The expectation I think that a lot of people have is every launch has to be perfect. I think what Astra has to do, really, is we have to have so many launches nobody thinks about it anymore.”

But it looks like people – including Astra itself – are indeed thinking about it. This is particularly true after the launch failure of Astra’s TROPICS 1 mission in June, the first in a trio of launches the company conducted on behalf of NASA. That launch, much anticipated by the company and in particular Kemp, ended in loss of payload after the upper stage experienced an anomaly causing it to shut down before it reached target velocity.

As late as May this year, Kemp told investors that “If two out of the three [TROPICS launches] are successful, it’s not mission failure. It’s just a lower refresh rate for the constellation.”

But the switch from Rocket 3 to the larger vehicle, Rocket 4, marks a significant change in strategy that suggests a larger change in tune. The payload difference alone is seismic: Astra said it was increasing Rocket 4’s payload capacity from 300 kilograms – already a huge change from Rocket 3’s 50 kilograms — to 600 kilograms.

Kemp explained the shift to investors as one based on customer preference and market evolution. “We started talking to our customers and it was pretty clear that after two out of the four flights that we had flown were not successful, the opportunity to fly on a vehicle that has received all of this attention and energy from our team over the past year was also favorable to them,” he said. He added the company has seen increasing demand from large constellation operators for higher payload capacity and greater reliability.

What that means, concretely, is no more flights in 2022. Astra is looking at conducting several test flights of Rocket 4 and Launch System 2.0, of which Rocket 4 is part, but Kemp didn’t provide any concrete timeline as to when those test flights might take place, saying only that commencing commercial operations by next year will depend on the success of those flights.

Beyond these changes, Astra also reported growth to its space products division, specficiallhy the Astra spacecraft engine. The company has secured 103 committed orders for that engine, built off Astra’s acquisition of Apollo Fusion last year, and the company will be opening a 60,000 square foot production facility to support the manufacture of that product. The company is anticipating the sale of spacecraft engines to make up the bulk of its revenues.

The change in strategy comes on the heels of an announcement that Astra secured $100 million committed equity facility with B. Riley Principal Capital II over the next two years. That’s in addition to a $200 million cash runway the company currently has on hand.

TECH NEWS RELATED

upGrad raises $210 million at $2.25 billion valuation in round led by ETS Global, Bodhi Tree

Edtech unicorn upGrad has raised $210 million in a funding round at a valuation of $2.25 billion, led by ETS Global, one of the world’s largest providers of global entrance tests like GRE and TOEFL, and Bodhi Tree, an investment vehicle set up by media veterans Uday Shankar and ...

View more: upGrad raises $210 million at $2.25 billion valuation in round led by ETS Global, Bodhi Tree

iDenfy’s AI-powered identity verification will shield Peccala customers from fraud

iDenfy, the global remote identity verification and fraud prevention company, joined forces with Peccala, the cryptocurrency investment platform that provides tokenized crypto Robo-investor services

View more: iDenfy’s AI-powered identity verification will shield Peccala customers from fraud

Top ways to keep your business ahead of the curve

Once starting up, the competition can be fierce, and it can be difficult standing out from the crowd. You always need to be ahead of the game and prepare for the unexpected.

View more: Top ways to keep your business ahead of the curve

Applications are open for the Impact Accelerator for Women Founders 

AWS is launching a one-of-its-kind programme that gives more women founders the support they need to accelerate their businesses. 

View more: Applications are open for the Impact Accelerator for Women Founders 

4 principles for building an MVP even if you can’t write a single line of code

Magnus Grimeland Contributor Share on Twitter Magnus Grimeland is the founder and CEO of Antler, a global early-stage VC firm. Coding is the new literacy — for years, people have been calling programming the X-factor that guarantees future success. It’s no surprise there is a widespread perception in the startup ...

View more: 4 principles for building an MVP even if you can’t write a single line of code

How has customers wants and needs changed?

The customer is always right, and one of the most important factors when it comes to business decisions. So how do you keep the customer happy?

View more: How has customers wants and needs changed?

In Africa, Kenyan startups have so far recorded highest funding growth this year

Kenyan startups raised nearly one billion dollars in the first half of 2022, surpassing what the country raised in the whole of 2021. Data shows that, of the big four in Africa – the quartet that includes Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa, and which receives most VC funding in ...

View more: In Africa, Kenyan startups have so far recorded highest funding growth this year

US Treasury sanctions Tornado Cash, accused of laundering stolen crypto

The U.S. has sanctioned decentralized cryptocurrency mixing service Tornado Cash for its role in enabling billions of dollars worth of cryptocurrency to be laundered through its platform. Tornado Cash, along with other mixers such as AlphaBay, enables customers to conceal the source of their crypto funds when participating in ...

View more: US Treasury sanctions Tornado Cash, accused of laundering stolen crypto

Less than 1% of Netflix’s subscribers want to play its mobile games

Ethereum co-founder sees role diminishing as blockchain becomes increasingly decentralized

How an Armenian startup plans to use a new innovation to tackle the billion-dollar phishing industry

5 reasons why Ukraine’s fintech sector is growing despite war

Volunteer for work exchange and get a free pass to Disrupt

Bolt Mobility bolted (and left cities with a mess) and other TC news

That big climate bill might actually make a difference

Northrop Grumman taps Firefly Aerospace to upgrade its Antares rocket to American-built engines

Apple adds the battery percentage icon back in the latest iOS beta

Cloud kitchen startup Bigspoon raises Rs 100 crore from IAN, NB Ventures

HBO Max attempts to fix its notoriously buggy app with oft-requested features

Black Founders Matter ousts Black founder, morphs into BFM Fund

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News