Astra space, a California based launch company, went public this year with the assistance of Craig McCaw, a telecommunications pioneer in Seattle. After recording the first successful launch from Alaska, the company had a happy day on Wall Street today.
The company’s share price rose 42% on the Nasdaq Stock Exchange to close at $11.17, up 17% at the end of the trading day.
The successful test launch of the U.S. space force on Friday night was a key driver of Astra’s financial growth. 3.3 the lv0007 rocket put the test payload into orbit from the Pacific Space port on Kodiak Island, Alaska, nearly a year after the last test mission, and the rocket actually deviated from the orbit three months after the subsequent launch attempt.
Because the mission was purely for testing, the payload was not separated from the upper layer of the rocket. Instead, it monitors the flight status of aircraft for the space force under a contract from the Pentagon’s defense innovation department. Looking ahead, the space force is likely to be one of Astra’s main customers.
“Getting on track is a historic milestone for Astra,” Chris Kemp, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Astra, said at a press conference today. “We can now focus on serving our customers and expanding rocket production.”
Astra’s goal is to open up a niche market in the small satellite launch market, which is marked by fast iteration, mass-produced rockets and transportable launch facilities. Astra’s next release could be as early as next month.
The company was founded in 2016 and brought hundreds of millions of dollars in cash this year through the merger with holicity, a special purpose acquisition company founded by McAfee. Microsoft co-founder bill gates provided financial support to holicity through a sponsorship fund called pendrell Corp.
The deal paved the way for Astra to become a listed company in July.
When announcing the merger in February, McAfee touted Astra’s focus on “small launch, simple launch and cheap launch, which can be realized in one day”. He said Astra would be in a good position to play a role in creating the giant satellite telecommunications constellation he envisioned in the 1990s.
Thanks to oneweb, SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper project, this vision is now closer to reality. Last month, Astra submitted a document to the Federal Communications Commission calling for the launch of up to 13000 satellites.