Capitalism in space: Astra yesterday announced that it has canceled all further launches with its Rocket-3.3 rocket, and will instead focus on developing a larger version, dubbed Rocket-4, which it says will begin test flights in 2023.
The company says that it will no longer fly the Rocket 3.3 and move on to its larger Rocket 4 vehicle that it announced in May. One change is that the payload performance of the new rocket has doubled to 600 kilograms. Kemp didn’t disclose details of the design change other than an upgrade to its upper stage engine. Rocket 3.3, by contrast, had a payload capacity of no more than 50 kilograms.
“The feedback that we were getting from some of the larger constellation operators was that satellites were getting larger,” he said. Discontinuing the existing Rocket 3.3, he said, allowed the company to focus its resources on the new launch system, including increasing its payload capacity.
Essentially, Astra has left the field and is at present no longer an operational smallsat rocket company. It is also likely that its announced schedule for its upgraded rocket will not be met. Thus, expect customers to shift to other launch providers able to launch satellites, such as Rocket Lab and Virgin Orbit.
Not surprisingly, the company’s stock plunged soon after this announcement.
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