The rocket start-up Astra plans to go public, the company announced Tuesday, raising $500 million to bolster its position in the burgeoning market for space transportation.
In a deal valued at $2.1 billion, Astra would become the first publicly traded company dedicated to delivering satellites into Earth’s orbit. The Alameda, Calif.-based rocket-maker intends to go public through a merger with a blank-check company, or what’s known as a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which acts as a financial vehicle to bypass the traditional IPO process.
“We’re seeing hundreds of companies that want to get from anywhere on Earth to anywhere in space on their schedule — not wait years to get a lot of things to one place,” said Astra founder and chef executive Chris Kemp in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this week. “So we’re really focused on building a much smaller rocket, produced in much higher volume, launched from a much larger number of locations.”
Kemp, a former chief technology officer for IT at NASA, said the deal was the best way to raise significant funding and gain access to public markets.
Astra offers launch services of payloads ranging from 50 to 150 kilograms, or as much as 330 pounds, and expects to begin deliveries into space by the end of the year. The company says it has booked more than $150 million in revenue from more than 50 planned launches. NASA and the Defense Department are among the company’s 10 existing customers, Astra said.
In a second test launch from Kodiak, Alaska, in December, an Astra rocket failed to reach Earth’s orbit after the upper-stage engine depleted its fuel seconds too early, preventing the vehicle from reaching orbit velocity. But the company considered the just-shy test flight a success. Astra aims to differentiate itself in the burgeoning market for space commerce by offering smaller, more frequent launches into low Earth orbit.