'The next billionaires will be made in space:' Astra CEO
In the past decade, the privatization and commercialization of space flight has become a reality, with companies like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic (SPCE), and Astra (ASTR) looking to turn the final frontier into a lucrative industry.
“As Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos prepare for their personal missions into space—they made their billions here on Earth—I think that the next billionaires will be made in space,” Astra CEO Chris Kemp told Yahoo Finance Live.
Astra, which began trading publicly on the Nasdaq on July 1, aims to catalyze a new low-Earth orbit space economy in order to improve connectivity and life on Earth. Though many space companies like SpaceX still remain private, Astra went public after completing a SPAC merger last week. Astra’s endeavors in space currently involve customer payload deliveries such as satellites into low-Earth orbit, beginning this summer. The company currently has over 50 launches under contract.
According to Kemp, the number of small satellites in orbit is expected to grow by tens of thousands within the next decade or so.
“Most of these satellites are here to provide better connectivity on Earth—to generally help us manage the resources on Earth,” Kemp said. “And there's over a trillion-dollar economy emerging in this space. And most of it isn't people in space, it's putting the satellites into Earth orbit, where we'll have the opportunity to better observe and connect our planet.”
We're really thinking about making rockets like an automobile company would make carsAstra CEO
Astra is expecting $1.5 billion in sales by 2025, according to an investor presentation. However, the company’s capital expenditure is only projected to be $24 million. Kemp said that Astra remains “focused on scale,” and that daily space delivery was a goal from the start. He spoke to how the company is able to produce rocket technologies and operate at such an efficient level.
“So we're really thinking about making rockets like an automobile company would make cars,” Kemp added. “So [Astra uses] inexpensive materials, inexpensive manufacturing and fabrication techniques that reduce labor. We're also completely autonomous. So the rocket will operate with very few people both in the field and also in mission control.”
The future of commercial space flight
Looking toward the future, Kemp believes that commercial space endeavors will be catalyzed by companies looking to improve the connectivity of people and devices and manage resources on Earth more effectively. He said that Astra’s 100-year plan is to be a key player in the expansion of human economic influence into space, and he foresees many different companies emerging and competing in this new environment.
It isn’t all smooth sailing for rocket ships, however, as NASA reported that the Department of Defense’s global Space Surveillance Network (SSN) currently tracks 27,000 pieces of orbital debris or “space junk.” According to NASA, much more debris that is too small to be tracked exists in the near-Earth space environment, which presents a threat to human spaceflight and robotic missions. Space junk consists of both manmade objects and meteoroids in orbit.
Kemp noted that space junk in low-Earth orbit does not stay there for very long as gravity eventually pulls it toward Earth, causing it to burn up as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.
“So to the extent that we can put things in lower and lower orbits, we're not going to pollute these higher orbits where, frankly, that debris can last for hundreds or even thousands of years,” Kemp said.
Thomas Hum is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @thomashumTV
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