Astra Spacetech Day 2022
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> Hard problems attract amazing people. And the chance to get to work with a bunch of really great people and really hard problems is something very special. Four years ago, Adam London and I quietly founded Astra with a bold mission to improve life on Earth from space. >> Our goal is to expand access to space so dramatically that we deliver things to orbit every day. But it always starts with one.
♪ ♪ >> Astra's LV0007 has reached orbit. >> It's incredibly hard and we are just getting started. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> Five, four, three, two, one, zero. First motion. Vehicle has cleared the tower. >> LV0009 is on its way to space.
>> Separation. Great news to report, the payloads have started to communicate with ground stations. Our customers are calling us and indicating that satellites are live and talking, successfully deployed.
We are excited to see if I care for our 10 flight. ♪ ♪ [Applause] >> Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Astra's inaugural Spacetech Day. I'm Kelyn Brannon, the chief financial officer at Astra. It's my honor to invite you here today to join me, our leadership, and the rest of the Astra team at our rocket factory in the Bay Area. We are very excited to share more about our mission, vision, and strategy with you.
But here comes a little bit of the boring part. Before we get started, I want to go over some important reminders for you. Today's event will contain forward-looking statements.
These forward-looking statements refer to future events, including Astra's future plans, product, and Outlook. When used it today, the words "anticipate," "could, enable, expect, tend, believe, will, shed, project, and similar expressions as they relate to Astra are, as such, a forward-looking statement. These are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties and, as a result, Astra's actual future results and performance including our ability to achieve many plans, ideas, and goals that we may discuss today may differ materially from those discussed during this event. We encourage you to review our filings with the SEC in which we describe the factors that cause actual results to differ materially for my current expectations. Today we will also reference nongap financial measures which we believe to be useful to investors as our management team uses these nonGAP financial measures to plan, monitor, and evaluate our financial performance.
These nonGAP financial measures exclude certain items and should not be considered as a substitute for comparable financial measures. Astra's methods of computing these may differ from similar nongap financial measures used by other companies. A description of these items, along with the reconciliation of our nongap financial measures to the most comparable gap financial measures can be found in our earning release, release, furnished to the SEC on May 5th, 2022. You are going to have an opportunity to see a ton of our technology today. This is an ITAR facility with limited attendance to U.S. persons only for this reason.
If you were to take an photo of an object that is ITAR controlled and publish it, this is a potential federal defense. For this reason we are implementing the following rules about cameras. You can take photos of the presentation and stage from your seat only. As we separate into groups for tours, we'll ask you to put your phone in a secure bag that you are tour guides will provide, and at no point during the tour may remove your phone from your bag.
If you would do this without permission or take a photograph outside the permitted seating area, you will be asked to leave the building. If you must take calls, we ask that you do so from the front lobby. Your guide will point you there. Another logistic, bathrooms are back against the wall, both men and women, and we would ask you to use those facilities.
We will also take a few questions from the room and online at the end. Please submit those to the QR code or the code on the screen. Now I would like to invite the Honorable Mayor of Alameda, Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, up to the stage.
Mayor Ashcraft and the city of Alameda have been incredibly supportive to Astra as we have developed and upgraded this facility, and we are so grateful to the mayor and the city for their continued support. [Applause] >> Thank you so much, Kelyn, and good morning, everyone. And thank you to Chris Kemp for inviting me today, and welcome to everyone who is here to watch the inaugural Spacetech Day of Astra. It is great to be here at Astra with you, and as the mayor of Alameda, I am delighted to learn that 63 members of Astra's workforce call Alameda home. Because Alameda is a great place to live, work, and play.
I am also told that, over the last year, Astra has grown its employee base by 285%. That is impressive. Astra is located here in the enterprise district at Alameda point, which is our formal Naval Air Station from back in the world were two days. Actually it was built a little before that. Our vision, the city's vision for this area, is to transform all the airplane hangars and industrial buildings like this that used to be used to overhaul and repair jet engines to transform those into a thriving employment center that promotes research and development, high-tech, manufacturing, and sales. And I'm thinking that Chris Kemp and Astra could do for Alameda what Elon Musk and Tesla did for Fremont, but without any controversies.
Wright, Chris? Right. Right next door to where we are here is what we call site A. You are right, we need more creative names, but we have been working hard to develop this area into new homes, residential, also retail and parks. Those new homes could be home to more Astra staff, just saying. The city of Alameda is also deeply committed to sustainability and resiliency, so we are proud to open our third ferry terminal.
We are an island come after all. We need water transport. Billy opened the new seaplane lagoon terminal literally walking distance from here.
And it provides 20 minute service to and from San Francisco. You will not find a pleasant-yard, more beautiful, stress-free commute. And the terminal is served by transit line 78 which provides cross-island service to meet every arrival and departure starting and ending at the BART station in Oakland. We also help reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming and lead to sea level rise, which is an existential threat, especially to our island community. I understand Astra support sustainability by subsidizing public transportation for its employees and providing on-site bicycle storage, and 27% of Astra's employees bike, take public transit, including the ferry, and carpool to work. Yay, you.
Keep it that good work and continue to keep up that good work. Let's join the nonautomobile transport way to get to work. Astra is also engaging with the Alameda community in a variety of ways, including preparing a STEM project that will support the Boys & Girls Club, donating to the education fund and Alameda supporting all of our classrooms across the city, and working with the College of Alameda to establish internships and graduate to higher programs, and leading local cleanup efforts for Earth Day.
I am so pleased to join you for this exciting event and I am looking forward to hearing more now from Chris Kemp, but I want to wish Astra every success in all your ventures. Thank you, everyone, for being here. [Applause] >> Kelyn: Thank you, Mayor Ashcraft, for joining us. It is now my deep pleasure to bring up Astra's founder, chairman, and CEO, Chris Kemp.
[Applause] >> Chris: Thanks, Kelyn. It's such an incredible honor to have you all come and visit us today, and for the hundreds of you that were able to tune in to our webcast today, we've got an incredible morning set up. For those of you who are here, we are going to be unveiling some of the details of our product road map and our strategy. For those who are here, we would do some tours and you'll see the hardware we will talk about in the presentation today. We will share as much as this as we can on the live webcast, as well. As we get started I want to underscore why we are all here today.
I think in the last 50 years I have never seen a more significant opportunity to improve life on earth than from space. As we look over the past few months, the impact of space has been clear. When this image was taken on February 15th, Vladimir Putin was talking about how his troops were retreating from Ukraine. This is a picture of the Pripyat River where a pontoon bridge is built, and hours after Putin said he was retreating, this bridge was imaged from a satellite. This is a start up that didn't exist a few years ago that is showing us that the one of the world's most powerful leaders was lying to us all. These images we are seeing from these companies are providing a unprecedented level of transparency, and truth and honesty to world affairs that we have never seen before.
When the leader of this country needed to communicate with the outside world, to reach us, he didn't you CNN. He didn't use the Internet. He used TikTok. Connected through a starling terminal.
There has been an effort to try and connect the country not through infrastructure that we take for granted, because that's all been destroyed, but through space. Through a constellation of satellites providing connectivity to our front lines and troops and allies. This is a company that didn't exist, again, with the service, just five years ago.
We are about to see and hear from NASA. We are going to hear about how a satellite that used to be the size of a car has been shrunken down to a 10X10 cube. We are able to see inside hurricanes so we can get people outside of harm's way and evacuate people before the hurricane strikes. This kind of capability simply didn't exist a few years ago.
Through collaboration between MIT and NASA we are able to deploy an entire constellation of satellites in just a few months. The precedent here is, as we see these opportunities to use space to improve life on earth, you have to be able to get to space. The problem is, with hundreds of new companies building new applications and new small satellites, they have to wait to get a space. They have to wait until a rideshare mission, a large rocket, is going to the place in space where they need to go. Until then, they can't get their satellite into space. If you look at this opportunity, it is truly being gated by access to space.
If you have a new application, a new sensor you are trying to develop, and a business you are trying to fund, a service you are trying to provide, and you can't get it into space, you are held back. your revenue streams are held back, your funding is held back. Your ability to make progress is held back.
As we see this trillion dollar opportunity unfolding in both public and private companies alike over the next several decades, we see access to space as the key enabler for unlocking the new space economy. Just in the last year, we have seen almost a dozen companies, I believe, go public, raising billions of dollars of capital to build new applications across global communications, IoT, Earth observation, national security applications. These are real businesses generating real revenue and solving real problems here on Earth from space.
And this wasn't the case ten years ago or 20 years ago. We have customers that have collectively raised billions of dollars to build satellites to have a huge impact here on earth. When Adam and I first met -- and I can't believe that this picture was taken just over five years ago, in a garage in San Francisco -- we imagined the potential of space.
We imagined the idea of dramatically increasing access to space. In fact, we coined the phrase "daily space delivery." On day one -- and I think Scott Stanford is somewhere in the audience -- when we first raised our first money to build this business, the idea was simple.
Let's scale the number of launches. And that is a theme that we are going to be talking about throughout today, and you will be seeing it throughout your tours and throughout the conversations we will be having throughout the morning. But it is our shared vision of a healthier and more connected planet that truly inspires everyone here in the building.
I think we might all go to space for other reasons, to settle other planets, to spread humanity into the solar system, but for Adam and I and the whole team here at Astra, and for almost all of our customers, the mission is here on earth. The opportunity to improve life on earth through these dimensions of a healthier and more connected planet is truly something that has inspired all of the things that you will see today. Everything here in the building. The approach that we took was not to design and create PowerPoints and do all the analysis and five or ten years later finally maybe build a rocket. It was in 18 months, within 18 months of sounding that company in the garage, getting the launch license and launching our first rocket, and doing it again a few months later, and again, and again, and again. This was not the popular way to approach this problem.
You typically do not want to iterate with a rocket. But we felt we could learn so much more quickly if we pulled the entire system together and, importantly, to also iterate all of the pieces of the rocket, we needed to build a factory that could manufacture a lot of the components of the rocket. What you will see today is a factory that is actually manufacturing from raw materials, aluminum tubes, aluminum bricks, aluminum sheets. Most of the components of the rocket. At that loading dock, materials come in. At that loading dock, that leaves the building.
Throughout the tours today you will be able to see how we make most of the components of this rocket. The tanks, the structures, the valves, the engines, electronics, here in this building. Of all the images that are on the screen, and most proud of this final one. That is an image that we took from space when we put our first satellite in Earth orbit.
This iterative process actually allowed this team, the smallest team ever assembled, to put into Earth orbit satellites 4 to 4 years faster than any of the in history, and maybe eight or ten years faster than any other in our industry. This mentality of building, iterating, learning, is deeply baked into our culture here at Astra. And everything we have approached, our space products and space services, will benefit from this vertical integration and this commitment to learning and iterating as quickly as possible. Now that we have gotten to space and deployed satellites in Earth orbit for our customers, the mission is to scale. To make more rockets. We are scaling our launch services as quickly as possible by taking the company public, by investing capital in machines that will allow us to remove labor from key components, to continue to drive the cost of the launch vehicle down.
In a few minutes you will hear from my cofounder about how essential this is to winning the market in the small launch vehicle space. By ramping up our operations, we are also focused on a mobile launch architecture. So not just having a spaceport that is a fixed fortification, but having a mobile launch system that can truly be deployed anywhere we are licensed to operate in the world in just a few days, with just a few people. This will allow us to fly from more places on earth to more places in space more easily. In fact, we have three of these mobile launch systems that we are deploying and able to deploy anywhere within just a few days. And you will see them here today.
We are really excited that we are operating out of two spaceports, Kodiak, Alaska, and in Florida. Cape Canaveral, of course. Slick 46. There are also able to introduce a new location in the U.K. This is a location that we are working with the regional Authority state licensed to operate. This is a site that we will be able to operate perhaps the first orbital launch out of Europe.
If you think about what scale allows you to do, if you scale up your rocket, you end up with the lowest cost per kilogram, undeniably. The rocket equation is clear. The bigger the rocket gets, the less the fraction of the overall mass of the rocket is the avionics, all the mechanisms and control things. So the larger the payload capacity you can have.
It makes sense. A container ship, 777, has a lot of capacity. And it's very expensive to operate on a per pound basis. But what we will assert today is if you scale up the factory and drive the cost of the rocket down three economies of scale, economies of scale apply to rockets just like they apply to everything else in the world.
The more than you make, the lower the cost. The drivers behind us are not how many times you reuse the rocket, but how many times you reuse the factory to make more rockets. What inspires us at Astra is the aluminum can. What inspires us is taking the complexity of the rocket, simplifying it so that we can remove the parts.
The simpler we make it, the more automated we make the system, the lower the cost. The lower the unit cost of the rocket. Textron makes small aircraft.
The Cessna, if you're a pilot. They make a few hundred per year. They cost a few hundred thousand dollars each, and it might not surprise you that that, which is LV0011, one of our TROPICS launches coming up, weighs about as much as a Cessna. So they can make these Cessnas for a few hundred thousand dollars each, why should this cost millions of dollars? It is a tube with a pointy end and far few moving parts.
The engines don't have pistons, magnetos. The details really matter with rockets, but it doesn't have to cost more if you control the cost of the production of all the parts. You make a lot of them. Because then you can advertise this across a large number of units being produced. From day one, Astra's mission was to focus on simplification and scale, and through simplification and scale, the economics of launch kicked in our favor. In the end, you can win in this at both ends of the spectrum.
You can either have the largest rocket and reuse it more than anyone else, or you can have the largest factory and you can make more rockets that launch more frequently and provide more value by saving your customers time. For every large aircraft that takes off from San Francisco airport, how many small ones take off? For every container ship that pulls up to a port, how many trucks coming and deliver the actual shipping containers? The ratio is typically one train to 1000. Rockets are no different. Our ability to responsively launch our customer payloads exactly where they need to go into space, on their exact schedules, has value. When he drives the cost of the system down through mass production, we will make a strong argument that there are winners on both sides of this curve. And Astra intends to be a winner on the right side of that curve.
What I'd like to do now is calibrate this with a customer that I am honored to introduce and talk with live. NASA. I used to work at NASA.
To build rockets to launch NASA satellites is probably one of those incredible incredible things for me personally. We are so proud and inspired as a team to be able to launch NASA's first small satellite earth science constellation. With me today I would like to introduce the TROPICS mission. ♪ ♪ >> Number one on the list to Dominick's to observe the planet. This is a mission Americans really care about because it is directly observing our climate and helping save lives and protect property. TROPICS has a need for the configuration, a 30-degree orbit.
And nobody else really wants to go there. The ride shares are all going on these inclinations so it's very targeted to smaller vehicles, with a targeted insertion. It knows exactly where it wants to go. And Astra is perfect for that. >> NASA selected Astra because of our unique ability to get to three different orbital planes at a low cost.
To be able to launch three different times for $8 million is unprecedented. >> We are excited about this mission because it's NASA's first constellation built from small satellites, and Astra's platform is really ideal because it allows us to deploy the satellites rapidly and to the precise locations where they are needed in order to make the constellation operational as soon as possible. >> We have the honor of being the final and most important piece at this moment in time of their mission, which is to get that in space exactly what needs to go. We see that there are increasingly smaller satellites that are smaller and doing cool things in orbit, but they need to go to particular destinations at particular times. >> The real end game here is improving our ability to forecast tropical cyclones. We want to make measurements in the microwave wavelength region, and they can penetrate the cloud tops and see the storm thermodynamics under the clouds.
This is something we will never have had before in history with weather satellites, which are rates of better than one hour. >> This would be a massive culmination of the last three years of work in developing this launch system to be able to do these things we set out to do from the very beginning. >> From Astra's perspective it's really important because we believe in space at scale, and to do that you need to have much more frequent launches and access to space. So this has been an activity for us to really understand how we can further compress the turnaround time between launches both in terms of building the rockets and in conducting the launches. ♪ ♪ >> What this milestone means for us is delivering a really important mission for our customer and also demonstrating a capability that others can leverage in the future. >> The opportunity to be a part of something like TROPICS, where you get to make a difference and make a really large impact on the lives of people and help humanity as a whole, it does mean a lot to me and it really excites me, as well, going into this mission knowingly can help do something to make the world a better and safer place for people.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ [Applause] >> Chris: Cool. All right, now I am joined by Dr. Will McCarty, the program scientist for NASA, from Washington. We are going to be talking a little bit about the upcoming TROPICS mission and he will also share a little bit of detail, because he manages the portfolio of small satellite at NASA, for his vision for NASA's use of platforms like Astra. Dr. Will McCarty, welcome.
>> Dr. McCarty: Can you hear me all right? >> Chris: Perfectly. Tell us more about NASA's Earth science program and how this mission fits into your portfolio. >> Dr. McCarty: To understand what my position is at NASA, and
the program scientist in the weather and atmosphere dynamics focus area, which is one column of the earth science division which falls under the entire umbrella of the science Mission directorate. Basically, to understand what I do, it helps to know my background. My background, I am a meteorologist by training. I come from essentially a weather modeling perspective. It is the idea of what we can use NASA satellites and massive resources for 2 improve the weather, but the weather affects everything. It affects the composition.
It's not they just have extra CO2 or pollution, but how that blows around. That goes back to weather. My portfolio is both big and small. I do the global precipitation measurements mission, which is a large satellite that measures precipitation plus or my 60 degrees all over the globe. I do the Aqua mission, which actually just launched 20 years ago last week, which really revolutionized forecasting by basically measuring the vertical integrity that had never been seen before in the infrared.
But these were big school bus missions. These are large. What I've also been able to adapt to is the small.
So TROPICS is coming up. It's really exciting. Shoe boxes that can essentially measure the vertical profiles of the atmosphere in the tropics. We have the mission which measures reflected GNSS signals, so GPS and other constellations around the world. You can actually measure wind speed and soil moisture using those signals. Finally, I have been with the commercial smallsat data acquisition during the beginning.
NASA goes in and buys commercial data and tries to use it for our scientific objectives. You mentioned earlier, Planet is one of our customers. We buy their portfolio with latency so they can keep it affordable for science, but there's a lot of this data coming out. Two of the big ones have been around since the beginning, that we want to make sure that they are data, if it's useful to us and we go through in evaluation, we want to get into the hands of our scientists so they can better understand their objectives, with or my focus area or anywhere within the Earth system.
So that kind of helps explain my portfolio. I'm relatively new to the job, so things like TROPICS, I was excited four months ago about TROPICS from a user perspective and now I'm at headquarters level. But this is a big step forward for us, I think.
It adds a lot of information. >> Chris: Can you talk a little bit more about how this satellite compares to some of these school bus size or large automobile sized satellites, in terms of its capabilities, given how it's being deployed? >> Dr. McCarty: The engineering of it, I'll admit, is over my head. I'm just a scientist. But we are building these cubesats, these little shoe boxes, that can literally do what satellites have been doing for 40 years now.
But they used to be, like you said, the size of the refrigerator if not larger, and they would get four channels. This one will have, like, 15 channels, which is what our best have now. It measuring at different frequencies, that's how you shrink things down, but it gives the ability to measure the vertical profiles of temperature in and around hurricanes, the vertical of the water temperature, and we get a picture when the satellite goes around. They get to pictures the day. With TROPICS we will not get the ability just to see them, but see them with quick and rapid revisits, so even just adding a second orbit till one orbit allows us to then see the time evolution. And the time evolution is really important part we are missing here.
The time evolution, when you feed that to the models, that doesn't adjust the temperature moisture directly but it allows how the windshield is jesting, because you have to adjusted based on how the storm is evolving over these time periods. That results in basically more accurate predictions. And then you can think about how that scales. You could literally launch dozens and dozens of orbits.
But the reality of it is you can't do it with one orbit because the earth is always spinning beneath you. So you have to put in complementary orbits to get that read visit, is what we are missing. >> Chris: Of the mission has been designed so the more satellites, the more launches, the higher the revisit rate is. Can you talk to me more about what you consider mission success and how the mission was designed, and how you chose Astra as a provider given how early we are in our program? >> Dr. McCarty: Right. The idea here is that this is a fairly new paradigm for NASA, that we would basically be able to build six relatively inexpensive satellites, through any program that is basically very experimental. The proposals are written with both the engineering side but also the scientific objectives they are trying to reach.
The idea here was, okay, you can build these things and how we can put them up into space. If you think about the traditional launch services, we would be spending many multiples of the instruments themselves to get to orbits out of this constellation. Astra provides this low cost opportunity, and it really opens up an entire slew of different scientific objectives. Not just for TROPICS, which is the first example, that opens up the whole world.
We develop these small satellites but a lot of the scientific objectives can't just ride along with the space station. Many of the cubesats have gone along. You get to pick your orbit now.
There is no reason to send a communication satellite or something that will likely put that into space as some of the orbits we want to use for Earth sciences. So you are really able to go places that there is no other reason to go. That's what's exciting us. This basically allows the small satellites to be the primary payload, and that is kind of unachievable right now. >> Chris: The mission was designed so that you would have some number of these satellites successfully deployed in order to have minimal success criteria to the overall program.
Can you talk about that? >> Dr. McCarty: Basically our minimum threshold is to orbits. We need two orbits to see that time evolution. It's the first two pages of the flipbook. That would be awesome because then you get the second page.
Two is a huge step. The only way we get that temporal revisit is geostationary orbit. You are way up piracy have lower and you only see the disk of the earth, not the whole circumference of the earth. So the idea is to ten times 2, four satellite, that gives us our baseline. Not just what we are doing with TROPICS, but where we go in the future.
The reality of this is that this is the first step toward a new paradigm, and a paradigm that's already existing. Planet labs is doing how many satellites, and Spire has an entire constellation. We want to work in that same space.
The >> Chris: Is exciting. The cost of the satellite continues to come down and the cost of the launch comes down. What matters is the constellation in the service it provides, not any one launch or anyone satellite.
The team will do what we can to make sure all the launches and satellites are deployed, but it's good to know that the price point of three launches allows for a mission where only two were successful. We like to do better but it's nice to know that even NASA is designing constellations so that the overall constellation performance is the end goal, not thinking about every single satellite and every single rocket launch. >> Dr. McCarty: That's a really important point. With this new capability in hand, our scientific objectives are really built on the constellation, not the individual instrument. And that is something it's very different from what we've done traditionally with the school buses where it only exists on one satellite.
>> Chris: You have already launched one of these satellites on a SpaceX flight. Can tell us what the satellite has already been able to do for the program? >> Dr. McCarty: These are experimental untried technologies. So what they did was there was a seventh TROPICS satellite, and after completing everything, we realize, well, the bench model could basically be thrown up as a secondary payload and go up into space and give us some early-look data to understand how it's going to function. So every satellite that goes up into space has its nuances.
In Earth science we think very much at the lowest level calibration. Everything has to be complete the understood. That's how you get climate.
You need climate quality data to get to that point. So the Pathfinder is what we are calling it. That's the first satellite. The Pathfinder is in a sub synchronous orbit and what that basically has allowed us to do is test our calibration methodologies with real data versus what we think we are going to have coming out of the lab.
But the other thing that is cool about that is we have hopefully extended through the beginning of the mission, where we will actually overlap one going this way with this way and get better overlap. See you get a lot more simultaneous measurements from the Pathfinder, which we understand pretty well by now, but that allows us to cross calibrate the prime constellation with each other. One of the great mysteries of these constellations is how well they are going to be able to get them to match each other. One thing you lose by shrinking down, generally, is calibration stability. That's one of the arguments. By having the Pathfinder up there, we have demonstrated end-to-end the operation itself, and now we will be able to use that to make the constellation in better agreement with each other across the board.
>> Chris: Well, Dr. Will McCarty, I appreciate you joining us today. If you really are here even see how we have LV0010 about to leave the building, LV0012, and other things. We will shoot some video of it and send it to you.
Thank you for inspiring me and everyone here at Astra. This mission is really important to us and we will do everything we can to deliver for you and your team. >> Dr. McCarty: Really appreciate it. Fun stuff. [Applause] >> Chris: Now I would like to dig a little more into this idea of scaling the number of launch vehicles. The economics and the rocket science behind it.
There's no better person to do it then my cofounder, our chief technology officer, Dr. Adam London. With that, Adam? ♪ ♪ >> Dr. London: Thank you, Chris. Welcome to the rocket factory.
Thank you all for coming. I'm excited to get up here and spend, expend a few minutes talking about the question we get asked a lot, which is, "why small rockets?" Fundamentally there are three things I will highlight. First, orbital complexity, similar to what Chris and Will were just speaking about. it makes them useful to our customers like Ness and others.
Secondly, scale makes them cost-effective. Third, small rockets are frankly easier to make men big rockets, so they are as capital efficient as a company that is new and growing. Let's get into Astra dynamics. I would like to say there are many addresses in space. On your home you have your street number, your street, and your ZIP code. In space there are six things that define orbit, but three are most important, as well.
The altitude, how high above the earth you are circling, the inclination, which is the plane you're orbit's end. How far above that is it from the equatorial plane of the earth? And the rotation. Where does your satellite crossed the equator? And that's called the local time of the ascending node for asynchronous or been, or the right ascension, for more generic orbits. Finally, constellations or build up of many planes. We just heard about the TROPICS mission. That's three planes, two orbits per plane, all with the same altitude and inclination, but the three orbits are clocked in rotation 120 degrees so they are evenly distributed around the earth.
The thing you need to know from the rocket science set of things is it is really expensive from a time and energy perspective to change planes in particular. But any of your space addresses, once you are in space. That's the reason TROPICS is so much easier to do with three launches than trying to do it with one bigger launch and waiting for a very long time to get the things to the right locations. As you look at other bigger constellations, there are some that have been proposed with thousands of satellites and hundreds of planes. This gets very, very complicated.
Fundamentally, it's important if at all possible to launch directly into the correct orbit, direct delivery to the right space address. That is what our dedicated launch services is designed to do. What do our customers need as they are building and deploying these constellations? Initially to any deployment to all of their orbital addresses, and then over the life of a mission they will need to add spares or move spares or replace during operations, and then at the end of life they want to replenish the constellation. That means all addresses have to be touched, but if satellite last different amounts of time, you don't want to go to them all in the same order.
You want to be able to very precisely replenish potentially one satellite at a time, maximizing the value of that very expensive asset. Perhaps most importantly, our customers want to do this quickly. Time is money, and particularly in space. When you are launching a satellite that costs a lot of money, you need it to generate the revenue to bring that back. And this typically means that a month of the satellite's time is worth tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
That can help benefit the idea of responsive quick launch. Astra is out to solve all of these problems. Whenever you need something in space quickly, we would love to help.
Our responsive capability and scale, we believe, will enable that. When you are deploying low density constellations like TROPICS, which is six satellites spread all around the earth, a small system like Astra is often the best and the fastest option to make that happen. In higher density constellations where you can benefit from the bulk deployment of very large rockets, Astra still has a role to play.
We think we can complement them by delivering, or to accelerate deployment to make this operational faster, at a small incremental cost compared to the average delivery cost. Compared to the nonorbit and operations phases, we think we shine, as well. If a satellite fails or needs to be quickly replaced, we can help do that. And near the end of their useful lives, we think it's quite unlikely that a whole plane will get to the end of life at the same time.
So we aim to enable a more focused replenishment than might otherwise be possible. Economies of scale. We talk about scale a lot.
They are so core to our strategy. I want to talk about the concept briefly. What this is, which is one of my favorite charts, is if you buy a rocket or an airplane or a car and he put on a scale, how much does it way, and how many dollies did you pay for each of those dry kilograms? You think they are different but, in fact, they are fairly similar. They are mostly metal, of the more and more are being made from carbon fiber.
They are run by pretty complicated engines, and they have a growing amount of avionics and software that makes it all work. But you produce them at tremendously different rates. The demand is very different. And that is the thing that fundamentally drives the cost that you can buy a car for tens of dollars per kilogram, but rockets are thousands today. Ultimately, because these physical devices start with the same stuff, like aluminum costs a few dollars a pound more or less no matter what, so the commodities that make it up is at the bottom or even below this chart.
As you think about each of these charts, how much time and energy and capital go into converting those fairly inexpensive, although recently trending upwards, commodities into a unit of something useful. This amazing device that we then go and use. Our objectives, and I think the fundamental reason why this comes down, as you can invest more in the automation and manufacturing, in the efficiency of production. So our objective is to move our small rockets down around to the bottom level of airplanes. As Chris said earlier, if a Cessna can be that much, can't a rocket of similar size? So what does this mean for small launch economics and why did we choose, and do we continue to choose to develop a small rocket instead of a very large one? I like numbers and I like charts, so I will try to avoid. The traditional view is that small launch is much more expensive on a per satellite or per kilogram basis, and that's borne out when you look at this as a price per kilogram basis.
But what is possible when you reduce the cost through scale of small launch? It gets quite a bit better. If you account for the value or, in the inverse, the cost of losing time from a big launch, they start to become much more similar on a per cost basis. And there is something that many of you in the audience, and we come to care deeply about, which is capital efficiency and the return on capital. The amount of time and money and effort to develop a program that can build a larger rocket costs quite a bit more than that of a small rocket. So when you amortize that, the truer cost of these bigger programs on a per mass launch basis increases and they start to become even more similar.
In short, we believe that over time on a per kilogram basis that larger rockets will probably continue to be more cost effective, but we think that Delta is going to get smaller and be much smaller than what you experienced today. Of course on a per launch basis, which drives many of these higher value things of quick access, it's not even close because we are able to produce a smaller thing. At a high-level, I would summarize our strategy as using scale to obtain dramatically better cost prelaunch, but at a very reasonable cost per kilogram. And that is what we think fundamentally enables us to deliver for our customers and provide these high-value constellation deployment and maintenance replenishment services. Before I handed it back to Chris, there's one more thing I wanted to cover.
Lay back and my management consulting days we like to talk about, what if it frequently raised objections to this idea? So let's cover one of those. As you might imagine, I get a lot of questions about reusability. Why aren't you reusing your rockets? Let me say this first. Reusability and reusable rockets are incredibly cool. One of the most amazing and impressive things that I've ever had the pleasure to witness was those two Falcon Heavy boosters landing in unison in 2017. What an accomplishment.
I suspect that I have a better appreciation than many on how challenging and impressive that was, and I remain profoundly in awe of that. But it's important to talk about the economics and how we think about this question. Conventional reasoning looks sort of like this. The cost of conducting a launch is pretty much the same whether it's reusable or not, and you can reuse a rocket four times, meaning each launch is a quarter of the cost of a rocket, so it's a no-brainer that you should reuse rackets.
Mind you, things are little more complicated, particularly when you consider the economies of scale. First, recovery and refurbishment does add the additional prelaunch operation costs. So those costs are not constant.
Second, and perhaps most fundamentally, producing four or 20 times fewer rockets, each of which frankly is more complicated, likely larger, likely needs higher margins, often is somewhat lower performing for these reasons, means that the prelaunch production cost is actually quite a bit more than this quarter or one 20th factor that we just applied. Third, reusing rockets is hard. Reusing it 20 or 50 times is really hard. So you have to think about the programming capital costs the need to be amortized over all those lunches.
We actually believe that, as he introduced reusability, the costs go up initially and eventually will come down. Our modeling and analysis suggests that the payoff is somewhere in the range of 20-50 reuse is. It's highly dependent on the specifics. But pretty sure it's not 2-4. Fundamentally, when you think about this, do I want to invest more capital to potentially get a benefit? And very happy to focus on making rockets simple.
That's hard enough. We remained intensely focused on scalable launch. I will acknowledge it is certainly possible we are wrong about this. There are lots of people who believe we are.
But our model so far and our understanding leads us to move in this direction as we scale and learn more and keep evaluating the economics. If or when we believe it makes sense to reuse, we'll absently consider investing. For now, simple rockets made at scale. That's what we are about and that's what I'm very excited to do here, and I think that's ultimately what will enable us to really meet and help our customers and provide great value.
It is important to acknowledge one thing about that, though. To achieve that scale and to solve these future launch challenges for all of our constellation customers, we need a scalable launch system that is capable of launching almost every single satellite produced. Even if it's only one or two at a time.
That means that it needs to get a little bigger. I'd like to turn it over to Chris to talk about the next step we are taking on that front. Thank you all. [Applause] >> Chris: Awesome. I'm about to share with you some really exciting work.
The team has been iterating since day one. Launch system 1.0, rocket 2.0, rocket 3.0, 3.1, 3.2. That's version 3.3 of us us and that, over a 5-year period of time, has gotten better and better. As you talk about Astra's strategy, we talk about our launch services, because you can't improve life on earth through space if you can't get to space. We talk about the space services themselves and our progress toward building that platform in space, and we talk about the core technologies and the products we need to power that platform.
What I'm going to dive into, into each of those three areas, in a little more depth. First we will start with launch system 2.0. We called this 11.0 because it's the first one that works. It was the first that delivered our customer's satellite into Earth orbit. But this is a system that has now been operated and developed over the last couple of years.
About 18-24 months. Over this year, the team has been working to build the next version of the rocket, 4.0, a new version of the launcher. A new version of the software that powers the entire system.
And a new version of the factory to make it all. What we are going to dive into today, and hear from Benjamin, really deep dive into everything happening here in the building. What I'm going to talk about is the design goals for launch system 2.0. We focus primarily on three areas: cadence, capacity, and cost. If you think about this, this is the Northstar for every product team working on every single component of the system.
He think about the overall launch system, we're talking about rocket engines, stages, the overall launcher, all the support equipment. All of this stuff has to work together. So having clarity and focus and purpose is critical to bring it all together time and time again.
Before we get into cadence, I want to underscore how infrequent lunches actually are. In Q1 it might surprise you that Astra followed Spacetech's, Russia, and China as tied for the second most frequent orbital launch on earth. We tied with ULA, which also had to kill lunches last quarter. In a way we are not really proud of this. This shows you how few lunches occur on earth every quarter.
By doing three more launches, if Russia isn't launching anymore, how they are available to these customers billing these small satellites, they need to be, as Adam explained, launched two particular addresses in space as fast as possible. This new launch system is designed for weekly launch. The factory was designed and scaled for weekly production. We mean that the software and the systems are designed to be operated by teams so we can support a weekly cadence of launches.
So it informs a lot of the details in the design of the system. This unlocks more launch availability, more scheduling flexibility, and a shorter time from book to orbit to our customers. These are things we hear from customers are the most critical things to them. So how do we do this? First of all, software. We automate as much as we can in the factory so we can make more rockets more quickly with less people.
We are also driving the mission control and the on-site launch operations experience down from around 21 to 8 people. This is being evolved to use if you are a number of people it adds up to lower cost. If hundreds of passengers can get on a jet and fly across the ocean with a pilot and a copilot, why can't a couple of people fly a rocket that doesn't have any people on it was a satellite that is largely -- most of them have to work for the customers to be happy. There's no reason. As we think about innovating, we think about driving efficiencies in every area of the operation. Including the recycle time at the pad.
The new launcher is designed to have a one-day recycle time, which means that we ship a rocket and following day do it from the same launcher. That means a lower cost in operations and anything that has to happen that is expendable at the pad so we can continue to launch from a particular spaceport more and more frequently. Potentially, if we accomplish this objective, operating a daily space delivery service from a single spaceport. The problem is that'll never happen. Because of weather, because of regulatory issues, constraints, licenses, so that's why we need more space ports. So you saw the announcement last week, we are working in Scotland, and have an entire team looking across the entire world, looking at regions and areas where we can operate spaceports.
Because if you can truly take a mobile launch system and deploy it anywhere that is happy to have us do a launch, we truly allow the company to unlock the potential of launching from anywhere on earth to anywhere in space. But the key is the system has to be mobile, you have to reduce the number of skilled on-site personnel that have to fly in, so the fewer people that are out there, the safer it is for the team. Basically we are driving efficiencies and economies of scale not just in production but in operations, as well. The second key design point is capacity. While many of our customers have very small satellites, an increasing number of large mega constellations have larger satellites that they are beginning to launch and deploy. As we look out over the next ten years or so, the average weight of a satellite, the mass of a satellite, is about 180 kilograms.
Some are larger, some are smaller. As Adam said, our objective is to address the majority of the market for mega constellation customers. With launch system 2.0, our design point is 300 kilograms of payload to Leo.
You might ask how we do that. First, it's a slightly larger rocket with more powerful engines. So we are moving to a larger fairing that has more for our customers, so we can take those being designed for others. We are moving from five engines to two. This reduces the cost and the number of engines have to manufacture, and these new engines, which you will see here on the tour today -- and I have a video, too -- it's a really cool engine. It has fewer parts, it doesn't have big batteries, it uses turbo pumps so it's a lot more efficient, and actually I do have a video.
We will play a video of the engine you are about to see on the tour running through its qualification acceptance tests. This engine produces 35,000 pounds of thrust. Two of them will produce a total of 70,000 pounds of thrust. This replaces the current engines that produce about 7,000 pounds of thrust, so five engines that collectively produce 35,000 pounds of thrust are being replaced by two engines that produce twice as much thrust.
we continue to increase the production rate of rockets. It goes for a while. Which is what you want them to do. While we continue to focus on capacity, we continue to drive costs down. What this means is our base launch price will be only $3.9
million. Which is a lot less than many of our competitors. As Adam showed you, while the dollars per kilogram might be more, the dollies prelaunch remains low low.
By continuing to offer what we hope to be the lowest price per launch will continue to attract customers, especially as capital is more expensive for our customers, and especially as we go into times of economic uncertainty, we believe our customers are going to choose the lowest price per launch. still he remains our focus on that right side of the curve by continuing to drive costs down. As we look ahead, we are never done. The teams that work at Astra to make better engines, better stages, better rockets, better software, will have 3.0 right
behind it. We'll continue to focus on what our customers tell us they need. Every indication is that the capacity will need to ever so slightly increased. How much? We don't know. Our customers are telling us now. As constellations like Kuyper find tune the mass of their satellites, we can make adjustments, because it will be tested and flying for a while and then there will be a 3.0,
and a 4.0, and a 5.0. This idea around continuous innovation and listening to our customers and incorporating their needs into our products is what drives Astra. This might be the first product-led, customer-obsessed aerospace company.
We can't hire product managers in this industry because they have generational life cycles. Typically when you are an aerospace company the product management is done by NASA. They tell you what they need, and it's a cost plus contract. There's not a continuous cycle of listening, iterating, incorporating that feedback loop into your products.
And you won't see it here on your tour. But it's a deeply embedded in the values and culture of every single team member at Astra, and it's really special. Now I'm going to turn to space products briefly. In order to build space services, you've got to have the best space products.
Your satellites have to have fantastic propulsion systems, they have to have power, they have to have radio systems and payload performance. That's market-leading, and the challenge is that no suppliers exist to supply a mega constellation, because there's really only one operating right now, and it's SpaceX. We have to take every single one of these core space technologies and figure out as a company how we scale this. How do we take what we've done with rockets and launchers and apply it to these other key critical space technologies? Take this factory that we've built. Take the vertical integration capability, the ability to do the test facilities are going to see on your tours today, and apply them to every critical core space technology.
Our first, we acquired last summer with the acquisition of Apollo fusion. I am proud of this team and proud of the work we've done, because we have already sold 82 of these engines. If you listened to my earnings call last week, we sold 61.
So this product is working in space, it's being adopted by customers, and the more of these we make, just like the rockets, the more the cost comes down, which means the more we have market-leading space services. We are just getting started identifying the strategies we are going to use to introduce new space products that are going to power the space services. On to space services. The team here, as we continue to make progress on our launch system, is making very strategic investments in building the first prototypes of the Astra spacecraft for our constellation. All I'm going to do is tease you with it here today. This is going to be something that we will apply the same values, the same culture, and the same approach to.
But we are not going to build it by integrating a bunch of parts. Ultimately what we have to do is we have to bring the best space products to bear, so we have the best capabilities on orbit. The great thing about that is it creates revenue potential for Astra. There is potential in taking the best technology, productizing it, and selling it to our customers. As a popular card company said, if we want to electrify the industry, we will sell batteries.
And they sold batteries to competitors. We will get to space fast, develop our own space products, space-qualify them faster, and create opportunities for Astra and our customers to have the best space technologies and their constellations. And the fact that we have sold 82 of these spacecraft engines is an early indicator of the value of this opportunity. With that, we are going to show you the exciting stuff. You've had to listen to me and Kelyn, but I'm going to introduce Benjamin Lyon. After 23 years at Apple, where Benjamin let a lot of the core technology developed of the iPhone, robotics programs, after many months of coming and visiting and hearing what we're doing and hearing about what we were trying to do for Earth, he left Apple to join Astra.
Engineering, launch operations, he leads manufacturing, and today I hope you get the opportunity to tour with him because he will take you to all the places. He will show you a lot more detail of how we are pulling launch system 2.0 together and some of the other core space technologies. With that, Benjamin Lyon. [Applause] >> Benjamin: All right.
Nicely done. Thank you, Chris, and thank you, everyone joining us today as well as online. It is super exciting to welcome you here to Astra. To me, small cross functional and diverse teams that are largely independent are, like, part of our secret sauce. It is what enables us to move so quickly and also enable us to adapt as we learn more and more about the market as the market evolves.
When you get these really small teams, it makes the magic happen. Rather than tell you about it, I'd like to just show you. If you think about the factory you see today, this is what most of it looked like less than a year ago. We have this amazing real estate team that took this, and this, and turned it into this. And then this.
And now this. [Applause] For us, once you have an incredible space, then you can start to facilitize it with all the capital needed for scale. When we think about what equipment to bring in, we think about automation. And we think about particularly what automation makes sense for what we are doing here. On one hand we want to do scale and on the other hand we know that the market is evolving.
So we are very, very tasteful about where we bring in automation in order to drive up attack time, but also have flexibility in order to adapt as we learn. In general, where we see activities that are highly repetitive, we bring in robotics to speed those things up and you will see some of those things today. We are deeply investing in people. Our team is an incredible team. We come from the industry in all walks of life.
It's one of the most exciting things personally about working at Astra, that I get to work with people