Astra Space’s fortunes rise after venture’s first successful orbital launch from Alaska

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Astra Space’s Rocket 3.3 took off from its Alaska launch pad. (Astra Space Photo / Brady Keniston)

astra space, the California-based launch company, which went public this year with the help of Seattle-area telecommunications pioneer Craig McCaw, had a high-flying day on Wall Street today after recording its first successful orbital launch from Alaska.

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The company’s stock price rose as much as 42% on the Nasdaq stock exchange before settling at $11.17 for a 17% gain at the end of the trading day.

Friday night’s successful test for the US Space Force was the key driver for Astra’s financial growth. Rocket 3.3 LV0007 carried a test payload into orbit from the Pacific Spaceport on Kodiak Island, Alaska – nearly a year after the last test mission just missed reaching class, and three months after the follow-up launch attempt really went sideways,

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Because this mission was purely as a test, the payload was indistinguishable from the rocket’s upper stage. Instead, it monitored vehicle conditions in flight for the Space Force. Under a contract with the Defense Innovation Unit of the Pentagon, In the future, the Space Force is likely to be one of Astra’s major customers.

“The Reaching Orbit marks a historic milestone for Astra,” Chris Kemp, the company’s co-founder, president and CEO, said in a news release today. “Now we can focus on increasing the delivery and rocket production for our customers.”

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Astra aims to carve a niche in the small-satellite launch market marked by rapid iteration, mass-produced rockets and transportable launch facilities. The next Astra launch could happen as early as next month.

The company was founded in 2016 and brought in millions of dollars in cash this year based on a merger with Holicity, a special-purpose acquisitions company created by McCaw. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates provided financial support for Holicity through a sponsorship fund called Penderell Corp.

The deal opened the way for Astra to become a publicly traded company in July.

When the merger was announced in February, McCaw focused on Astra’s “small launch, simple launch, cheap launch that’s literally available on a day’s notice.” He said the company would be well positioned to play a role in creating the type of satellite telecommunications mega-constellations he envisioned in the 1990s.

Thanks to projects including OneWeb, SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper, that vision is now closer to reality. Last month, Astra filed paperwork with the Federal Communications Commission to launch 13,000 satellites.

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