Investing in Space

Astra stock rises on Nasdaq debut, as space company aims to launch rockets daily

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Key Points
  • Shares of rocket builder Astra Space began trading Wednesday on the Nasdaq.
  • Astra trades under the ticker ASTR, with shares previously listed under the special purpose acquisition company Holicity.
  • "The same kinds of things you do to make a rocket great are the same behaviors that you have to invest to make a company great. You don't want any inefficiencies," Astra CEO Chris Kemp told CNBC.
  • Astra's goal is to launch as many of its 40-foot-tall rockets as it can, aiming to reach a daily launch rate by 2025 and drop its $2.5 million price point even further.
A close up view of Rocket 3.2's engines shortly after liftoff.
Astra / John Kraus

Shares of rocket builder Astra Space began trading Wednesday on the Nasdaq, as it became the latest space company to go public after closing a SPAC deal.

Astra trades under the ticker ASTR, with shares previously listed under the special purpose acquisition company Holicity.

"Now we have a space company that everyone can invest in on the public markets," Astra CEO Chris Kemp told CNBC. "The same kinds of things you do to make a rocket great are the same behaviors that you have to invest in to make a company great. You don't want any inefficiencies."

The stock jumped as much as 21% in midday trading, before giving up most of the gains to finish the day up 4.5% at $12.90 a share.

Closing its merger with Holicity nets Astra about $500 million in new capital, which the company plans to use to build out production of its small rockets, expand its facilities in Alameda, California, and grow its spacecraft and spaceport business lines. Astra's goal is to launch as many as its 40-foot-tall rockets as it can, aiming to launch one rocket a day by 2025 and drop its $2.5 million price point even further.

Maturing the company

Astra has staffed up heavily since deciding to go public, adding new leadership from Apple, Tesla, Blue Origin and more.

"We've almost invested more time in building the team for the last six months than we have in this transaction, because we knew this day was coming," Kemp said.

Astra CFO Kelyn Brannon, who joined the company in December, has a background from a variety of Silicon Valley companies, including as Amazon's chief accounting officer in the late 1990s.

"Astra right now reminds me of my time at Amazon," Brannon told CNBC. "I remember standing there and talking with [founder Jeff] Bezos, and him buying every server known to mankind and building these big huge data centers."

"We want to be the AWS of space," Brannon added.

Rocket 3.2 launches from Kodiak, Alaska.
Astra / John Kraus

The company's last launch in December reached space, but the Rocket 3.2 vehicle came just short of orbit. However, the mission gave Astra leadership the confidence that its next launch, Rocket 3.3, can carry paying customers. Kemp said Rocket 3.3 is in testing currently, with the company remaining on track to launch the mission "this summer."

Astra plans to manufacture a dozen of the Rocket 3 series vehicles, with the next few currently in production.

"We'll start to roll these things off the production line monthly," Kemp said. "Our goal is to hit a monthly cadence by the end of the year, and then really just ramp from there. We've planned 15 launches for 2022."

Astra currently launches from Kodiak, Alaska, but the company has identified more spaceports around the world for launches. With a system that requires just a few people to set up for a launch, Kemp emphasized that Astra does not want "to be locked in a single location."

Competition

While several other space companies are going public via SPACs, and despite Astra's competitors like Rocket Lab or Virgin Orbit in the private rocket launch market, Kemp sees the industry's momentum and growth as a positive sign for his company's future.

"I think competition is great," Kemp said. "Our sphere is trying to get a whole new economy in low Earth orbit, and it's meant to improve life on Earth."

Additionally, Brannon emphasized that Astra's focus on simplicity and manufacturability gives it an edge v. its competitors.

"The way that we got to space three years faster than anyone else was the fact that we iterate," Brannon said. "You put more up into space, you learn more."

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