Astra is assembling a 250,000 square foot manufacturing facility that will be able to produce hundreds of rockets per year. These rockets would ideally cost only USD 1 million per launch, although CEO Chris Kemp thinks differently.
FREMONT, CA: San Francisco-based space startup Astra, which openly operated as Stealth Space Company, has been working on developing small, cheap rockets that are designed for facilitating daily spaceflights and delivering satellites into low-Earth orbit for three years. Currently, Astra is assembling a 250,000 square foot manufacturing facility that will be able to produce hundreds of rockets per year. These rockets would ideally cost only USD 1 million per launch, although CEO Chris Kemp thinks differently.
"Our strategy is to always focus on the bottom line," said Kemp. "Nothing is sacred. We're able to profitably deliver payloads at $2.5 million per launch, and our intent is to continue to lower that price and increase the performance of our system." Astra's rockets offer a payload capacity of 450 pounds per cargo, keeping it out of the large category, which can launch up to tons and cost between USD 60 to 300 million. With launches available on a daily basis, the company targets companies that produce small satellites like Planet Labs, Spire Global, and Swarm Technologies.
The company is backed by Innovation Endeavors, Airbus Ventures, Canaan Partners, and Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff. Recently, Astra raised more than USD 100 million from these investors and is also a finalist of the Darpa Launch Challenge, wherein Astra can win USD 12 million if it can deploy satellites of Darpa's choosing from two different locations and weeks apart from each other. "Many of our objectives on those launches were achieved, and I guarantee we couldn't have built our orbital rocket in three years if the team hadn't benefited from that experience," said Kemp.
The Darpa Challenge aims to demonstrate responsive and flexible space launch capabilities from the burgeoning industry of small launch providers. The company's mission can be compared to Los Angeles-based Relativity Space, which 3D prints rockets and has a slightly higher payload capacity of 2000 pounds. Relativity takes 60 days to build a rocket and costs about USD 10 million.
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