Covering the business and politics of space
WASHINGTON — As Astra shifts resources from launch vehicle development to spacecraft thruster production, the company is actively seeking strategic investors to provide longer-term support.
As expected, Astra reported Aug. 14 revenue of $0.7 million in the second quarter and an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) loss of $33.1 million. The company ended the quarter with $26.3 million of cash and equivalents on hand.
The amounts were roughly in the middle of ranges provided by the company 10 days earlier when it announced a “strategic reallocation of its workforce,” transferring 50 people from its launch vehicle to its spacecraft propulsion units while laying off about 70 other employees. The company said that it had laid off a quarter of its workforce since the start of the third quarter in July.
“Our priority is delivering on our commitments to customers, which requires ensuring that we have sufficient resources and an adequate financial runway to do so,” Chris Kemp, chief executive of Astra, said of those moves in an earnings call.
The layoffs will reduce expenses by more than $4 million a quarter starting in the fourth quarter, while the personnel transfers — some temporary and others permanent — will allow the company to increase production of its Astra Spacecraft Engine electric thrusters. The company delivered four such thrusters in the second quarter and forecasts delivering 8 to 12 in the third quarter to what Kemp said was “multiple” customers.
Those moves, he acknowledged, will delay development of the company’s Rocket 4 vehicle, which Astra previously projected being ready for its first test flight before the end of 2023. Those test launches are now scheduled for some time in 2024, but Kemp did not provide a more specific schedule. “The timing of paid commercial launches currently scheduled for 2024 will continue to depend on the results of these test flights,” he added.
The company’s financial runway is diminishing even as the company finds new sources of capital, such as a loan announced Aug. 4 that will provide Astra with $10.8 million and plans announced in July to sell up to $65 million in Astra stock in an “at-the-market” transaction. The company forecasted an adjusted EBITDA loss of $25 million to $29 million in the third quarter, ending the quarter with $15 million to $20 million of cash and equivalents on hand.
One analyst on the call expressed frustration with those projections, asking Astra executives for the “upside” of the company’s plans. Kemp emphasized the backlog of orders for its thrusters, which Astra said Aug. 4 was valued at $77 million, as well as orders from the U.S. Space Force and the Defense Innovation Unit for the Rocket 4.
However, he suggested the company’s efforts to focus on thruster production were intended to buy time for Astra as the company looks for new investors. The company said Aug. 4 it was working with PJT Partners, an investment bank, to identify “potential strategic investments in the Astra Spacecraft Engine business” that would bolster its finances.
“We are actively focused on finding investors in these two businesses,” he said, noting that the company’s launch and spacecraft propulsion business lines are distinct and “in different phases of their development.”
The loan and planned stock sale, he added, “gives us some time to look for great strategic investors that understand these businesses and want to invest in these businesses.”
Kemp didn’t offer a timeframe for an update on those investment discussions when asked during the earnings call. “We understand that it’s a challenging capital markets environment,” he said. “All we can do is bring in cash and revenue from customers, delivering for our customers, and be as efficient as we can possibly be.”
Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science... More by Jeff Foust
Discover the best publication that space professionals throughout the world turn to first.
all events >>
Get top stories, military space news and more delivered to your inbox.