November 22, 2021

Astra Reaches Orbit

Via Astra
Via Astra

Astra (NASDAQ: ASTR) successfully reached orbit Saturday. The small launcher’s LV0007 vehicle lifted off from a Kodiak, AK, spaceport, with a dummy payload for the US Space Force. 

“The team’s worked so hard on this for so many years,” Astra cofounder CEO Chris Kemp said on NASASpaceflight’s launch livestream. “We’re just getting started, folks,” he tweeted. LV0008, LV0009, and LV0010 are also in production.

  • Astra’s mission-naming conventions = LV, short for “launch vehicle,” + zeros + rocket serial number. Those zeros indicate how many orbital flights Astra hopes to launch. 
  • By 2025, Astra hopes to launch daily. At that highly ambitious cadence, Astra believes it could further cut dedicated launch prices, which currently start at $2.5M. 
  • LV0005 reached space, but not orbit, last December. LV0006’s safety officer terminated the August flight ~2.5 minutes into the launch, which was disrupted by an engine shutoff. 

Now, Astra has reached orbit roughly five years since it was founded. LV0007 puts Astra in a small and prestigious club of private space players to reach the off-world milestone. 

  • It took SpaceX six years and change with Falcon 1, the first privately developed liquid fuel rocket to reach orbit. Falcon 1’s development costs clocked in at $100M. SpaceX is still private. 
  • Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit, by comparison, reached orbit over a decade after inceptions. Electron cost $100M to develop and get to orbit; while Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne is said to have cost $700M through last July, per Forbes. Rocket Lab went public via SPAC (NASDAQ: ASTR). Virgin Orbit is expected to complete its own SPAC merger soon (NASDAQ: NGCA → VORB). 

Elon Musk and Rocket Lab congratulated Astra on Twitter after confirmation of LV0007 reaching orbit. 

View from the Street…

Deutsche Bank, in a Monday note seen by Payload, upgraded $ASTR to a buy rating and set a price target of $13. “Overall, we think this means that the next launch (LV0008) likely occurs before year-end given success of LV0007,” DB analyst Edison Yu wrote. “The new rocket should be built by now or nearly complete.”

“There’s more than just a test payload riding on LV0007,” we wrote in October. A stock ticker—and ascending to the public markets—makes a rocket builder’s valuation especially sensitive to each launch. But volatility cuts both ways. 

By all accounts, it seems that investors will be excited with Astra this week. At the time of this writing, before market open on Monday, Nov. 22, Astra’s stock price was $9.53. The stock was up by as much as 38% in premarket trading.