Small launch startup Astra to go public at $2.1 billion valuation

Astra plans to become the first small rocket maker to go public, the company announced Tuesday, after reaching space for the first time in December. It’ll become the second publicly traded space venture after Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.

The Northern California-based rocket firm’s “3.2” launch vehicle blasted to space for the first time in December from its Kodiak, Alaska launch site, a key test mission that “far exceeded our team’s expectations,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp told reporters at the time. The launch demo, though just barely missing orbit, propelled Astra into a small group of firms that have reached space.

The company has 50 customer launches lined up, and over $150 million of contracted launch revenue so far. Now, Astra is merging with special purpose acquisition company (or SPAC) Holicity Inc. to take its launch business public in a deal that would value Astra at $2.1 billion. Astra’s ticker will be ASTR when the deal closes in the second quarter of 2021.

Kemp, NASA’s former chief technology officer, said the merger and public filing unlocks a new stage for the company: “over the next 2-3 years, we will dramatically increase our launch schedule with a goal of daily launches by 2025,” he tweeted Tuesday. It also marks “a step closer to our mission of improving life on Earth from space by fully funding our plan to provide daily access to low Earth orbit from anywhere on the planet.”

The SPAC merger teams Kemp’s Astra up with billionaire Holicity CEO Craig McCaw, who’s expected to join the company’s board of directors. It also allows Astra to tap into $500 million in cash after the deal closes.

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