Astra changes strategy in wake of launch failures, abandons existing rocket – Meczyki.Net

astra CEO Chris Kemp told investors Thursday that the company will no longer launch payloads with its current light vehicle, Rocket 3, and will instead refocus all launches on a larger rocket that is still under development.

It’s a big change for the company, which has acted on the hunch that customers are willing to risk a certain number of rocket failures in favor of increased launch cadence and lower cost. Kemp summarized Meczyki.Net’s perspective in May: “I think hopefully a lot of people should have every launch right. I think what Astra has to do, really, is what we need to do with so many launches.” No one thinks about it anymore.”

But it looks like people — including Astra — are really thinking about it. This is especially true after the launch failure of Astra’s Tropics 1 mission in June, the first in a trio of launches carried out by the company on behalf of NASA. The much-anticipated launch by the company, and Kemp in particular, ended in the loss of the payload after the upper stage experienced an anomaly, causing it to abort before reaching target velocity.

By the end of May this year, Kemp told investors that “if two out of three” [TROPICS launches] If successful, it is not a failure of the mission. It’s just a low refresh rate for the Constellation.”

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

Kemp explained the change to investors based on customer preferences and market developments. “We started talking to our customers and it was very clear that two of the four flights we did were not successful, the opportunity to fly on a vehicle that has gotten all this attention and energy from our team in the past The year was also favorable for them,” he said. He added that the company has seen increasing demand from large constellation operators for higher payload capacity and greater reliability.

This means, in short, no more flights in 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 a concrete timeline for when those test flights might take place, saying only that until next year. Commencement of commercial operations will depend on the success of those flights.

In addition to these changes, Astra also reported growth in its space products division, specifically the Astra spacecraft engine. The company has secured 103 committed orders for the engine it built from Apollo Fusion’s acquisition of Astra last year, and the company will open a 60,000-square-foot production facility to support manufacturing of that product. The company anticipates sales of spacecraft engines to make up the bulk of its revenue.

The change in strategy comes after the announcement that Astra would take the B. Acquired a $100 million committed equity facility with Riley Principal Capital II. This is in addition to the $200 million in cash runway the company currently has on hand.