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Astra Suspends Launches in 2022 to Work on Next Launch System 

By Rachel Jewett | August 5, 2022

An Astra rocket takes off from Astra Spaceport in Kodiak, Alaska, on March 15. Photo: Astra

Astra Space is ending use of its Rocket 3.3 iteration after two launch failures and moving to the next version of its launch system. 

The rocket, part of Space Launch System 1.0, successfully reached orbit in a mission for the U.S. Space Force in November and then again in a March mission. But the rocket failed in a NASA Venture Class Launch Services 2 mission in February and more recently in its first NASA TROPICS mission on June 12. 

Astra said the new launch system will be designed to deliver 600 kg versus the current 300 kg. At this payload capacity, Astra believes the rocket will allow them to serve more than 75% of the total addressable market for small satellites including many mega constellations. The target for base bulk launch price for dedicated launches is under $5 million. 

“We’re working with all of our launch service customers to remanifest and Launch System 2.0. Thus, we will not have any additional flights in 2022,” CEO Chris Kemp said. “Whether we’ll be able to commence commercial launches in 2023 will depend on the success of our test flight,” he added. 

Astra plans to increase investment in rocket testing and qualification which will add time to the schedule of returning to commercial service. 

The company entered into a $100 million committed equity facility with B. Riley Principal Capital provides, which it said will provide “improved financial flexibility” to execute on the next version of its launch system. 

The company released the update in its second quarter 2022 financial results. In the second quarter, revenues were $2.7 million, with $2 million from launch services and $.7 million from space products, the Astra Spacecraft Engine which Astra acquired from Apollo Fusion. 

Engine orders are one bright spot for the company, and Kemp said orders for the engine were up 69% during Q2 compared to Q1, and Astra had 103 committed orders at the end of the second quarter.

Cost of revenues was $17.4 million, including $4.1 million for the cost of launch services and space products and $13.3 million of inventory write-downs. $10.2 million of inventory write-downs is for the discontinuation of Launch System 1.0. 

Adjusted net loss for the quarter was $53 million. Astra ended the quarter with cash and cash equivalents and marketable securities of $200 million and no debt.