Astra and Firefly join forces to make rocket motor after test setbacks
Silicon Valley rocket startup Astra Space three weeks ago caused the internet to laugh after one of its small rockets wobbled and slipped to the side moments after takeoff on a mission in Alaska. for the US Space Force. A week later, another rocket startup, Texas-based Firefly Aerospace failed its first orbital test over California due to an early engine shutdown.
Now the two struggling startups are joining forces to build a rocket engine together. Astra has signed a roughly $ 30 million deal to manufacture Firefly’s Reaver rocket engines, The edge reported Tuesday, citing internal documents and people familiar with the matter.
According to The edge, Firefly will send dozens of its Reaver engines to Astra’s rocket plant in Alameda, Calif., Where an engine sample was delivered earlier this year for inspection and study.
Neither company responded to inquiries regarding the details of the deal. Astra CEO Chris Kemp told The Verge that Astra does not directly buy the engines from Firefly, but acquire its intellectual property to manufacture these engines in-house, which is consistent with the vertical integration strategy. Astra’s aim to own every link in its rocket supply chain.
âWe have said that all intellectual property required to produce all of our technology will be owned by Astra, licensed from Astra or developed by Astra,â said Kemp.
Astra makes small rockets less than 40 feet tall. The startup managed to reach space last year on its second launch, but has yet to reach Earth orbit. Firefly either.
Astra has publicly declared its goal of delivering “500 kg to 500 km”, or sending 500 kg (1,100 pounds) of satellites to the Earth’s low orbital altitude of 500 km. Its latest rocket iteration, powered by five “Delphin” engines, is designed to carry up to just 331 pounds in low earth orbit.
Astra is betting on partnering with Firefly to help it reach the orbital target, as well as gain investor confidence. Astra went public on the Nasdaq in July. But its actions took a hit just weeks after the failed launch of Space Force in August, which the company said was due to one of the rocket’s five engines shutting down abnormally a second after takeoff. .
The deal is also part of Firefly’s strategy to build a business by selling rocket engines and other components in addition to launching satellites.