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  • For the last like 50 or 60 years,

  • space has mostly been dominated by a handful of governments.

  • It took government money to get a rocket up,

  • to build a satellite.

  • Around sort of 2008, the launch of this Falcon 1 rocket,

  • made by SpaceX, that marked the first time

  • we had billionaires who had some success in space.

  • We have lift off.

  • And now we're at this really interesting moment

  • in time where I think pretty much inspired by this example,

  • everybody decided they could do space as well

  • and could take a crack at these things

  • that people have been dreaming about for almost a century.

  • We've gone from governments to billionaires

  • to now all this private money, venture capitalists,

  • just regular old millionaires flooding in to space

  • and funding all kinds of projects.

  • As space becomes more accessible

  • to private enterprise, many companies are hoping

  • to make it not just possible but affordable

  • to put objects into orbit.

  • Now, a rocket startup called Astra is

  • on the verge of launching rockets

  • at a fraction of the cost of its competitors,

  • potentially opening up a new era

  • in the technology and business of space.

  • As I look 50 years into the future,

  • I see a platform emerging in space

  • and right above that thin blue line, I see competition,

  • I see ecosystems that are global, I see standards emerging

  • and I see a really exciting opportunity

  • for a trillion plus dollar economy to form.

  • My name's Chris Kemp, I'm the founder,

  • chairman and CEO of Astra and we're in our rocket factory,

  • located just across the Bay Bridge

  • from San Francisco in Alameda, California.

  • And I think that Astra is really

  • offering a very unique service.

  • No one can go anywhere on earth

  • and put something anywhere in space

  • in a few days with a few people.

  • We started talking about basically the idea

  • of building a rocket factory from the very beginning

  • and this idea was based on the principle

  • that if you make a lot of something,

  • the cost comes down a lot

  • so we're building Hondas not Ferraris.

  • We don't use any of the exotic materials,

  • carbon fiber composites, 3D printing,

  • that a lot of other companies like to talk a lot about.

  • They're actually very expensive

  • and they're very hard to scale

  • so we're building these rockets out of aluminum

  • so we're bending, we're welding, we're fastening,

  • we're stamping, we're machining aluminum

  • but our thesis was that if you could build rockets

  • like an aircraft or an automobile,

  • we could really bring the economics

  • in line with some of these larger rockets.

  • Astra's entering

  • into a crowded and well-funded space.

  • SpaceX is the clear leader with its Falcon 9,

  • Falcon Heavy and Falcon Super Heavy rockets.

  • Another front runner is New Zealand based Rocket Lab

  • with their Electron and Neutron rockets.

  • Astra has announced two different models,

  • one small, one big and says both will be much faster

  • and cheaper to build than those of its competitors.

  • For like 100 years, people in the United States,

  • Germany, Russia have been trying to build one

  • of these small liquid fueled rockets.

  • The first private company

  • to really pull it off was SpaceX in 2008.

  • It took SpaceX seven years to go from nothing

  • to getting this first rocket up.

  • Astra's whole goal really was to try

  • and shrink that time as much as possible

  • and to develop and manufacture this type

  • of rocket faster than any company in history.

  • Over the next few years here at this facility,

  • we'll be increasing the production rate of rockets

  • from monthly this year to weekly in 2023 to bi-weekly

  • in 2024 to a full daily production rate in 2025

  • and by launching a rocket a day,

  • we'll be able to bring the price point down

  • to about a half a million dollars

  • and we'll be selling launches

  • for a few million dollars that can deliver

  • between three and 500 kilograms to low-earth orbit.

  • Astra's ambition was born

  • from the massive demand for getting small satellites

  • into low earth orbit.

  • Startups are lining up to hitch rides on bigger rockets,

  • often waiting months or years for their turn.

  • Well, about five years ago,

  • one of my best friends started Planet,

  • which was the pioneer in building small satellites

  • and they were having some real trouble getting to space.

  • After spending a few months,

  • meeting a bunch of the other rocket companies,

  • it was pretty clear that he needed to be able

  • to get from anywhere on earth to anywhere in space

  • on his schedule, not the schedule of some large satellite.

  • If you're a small satellite company

  • and you want to get on a SpaceX rocket,

  • the going rate for a SpaceX launch

  • is about $60 million and there's gonna be one

  • or two very large satellites that are on that rocket

  • and they're really the primary payload.

  • All these startups want to be these,

  • what they call secondary payloads.

  • They're sort of attached around the big satellites

  • and so you're paying almost to be

  • like a second class citizen on this rocket.

  • The large satellites, the people that are really paying

  • for the bulk of the launch, they get deposited exactly

  • in the orbit that they want.

  • Then the secondary satellites get dropped off

  • and usually they have to use really small thrusters

  • on the satellites then to kind of push themselves

  • into their desired orbit.

  • There's not as many guarantees

  • that you're going to end up in the right spot.

  • Companies like Planet Labs are aiming

  • to dispatch many tiny satellites all around the globe

  • in what's called a constellation.

  • The satellites can do various computational tasks

  • using data from all over the earth

  • and since they're tiny and sit in low earth orbit,

  • they just burn up in the atmosphere

  • after a while, rather than contributing

  • to the growing problem of space debris.

  • As more and more companies try to build systems like this,

  • the need for easy access to space

  • is becoming greater and greater.

  • That's where Astra comes in.

  • The idea with the small rockets is

  • that you're getting your own ride to space.

  • It's taking your satellite to exactly the orbit you want

  • and even more than that, you're not having to wait months

  • and months and months to find space on a launch.

  • The whole idea here with something like Astra

  • is you hop on a website, you book a rocket launch,

  • you send them your satellite and hopefully

  • in a couple of weeks, your satellite's up in orbit

  • so we've never seen anything

  • like this sort of access to space

  • and the pace at which you could fly something into space

  • In much the same way, Amazon has big warehouses

  • and trucks that pull up.

  • You wouldn't land an Airbus 380

  • on Market Street and deliver a package to me.

  • A little sprinter van pulls up

  • and someone walks up and delivers a package.

  • Just look back at the last 10 years.

  • We've seen almost 400 companies now formed,

  • solving all sorts of really interesting problems,

  • looking at the earth, looking at how crops are growing,

  • looking at where we're fishing oceans,

  • looking at how to prevent things like coral reefs

  • being overheated in the oceans

  • and understanding weather patterns.

  • I can't imagine all the applications.

  • While private space flight

  • is becoming an increasingly crowded field.

  • The success rate is still extremely low.

  • More than 20 rocket startups have now failed

  • and there are at least 80 others

  • currently trying to get off the ground.

  • Only two private companies, SpaceX and Rocket Lab,

  • are flying regular missions to space

  • and Astra could be on the verge of becoming the third.

  • So Astra's been at it for about four or five years.

  • They've done really well in many senses.

  • They actually got to Alaska and did their first launch

  • in about two years, which was a record.

  • Rocket launch in Kodiak, Alaska, pretty cool.

  • The downside of that launch was that the rocket blew up.

  • Whoa.

  • It took 'em about a couple more tries

  • and then just at the end of last year,

  • they had really what was, for all intents and purposes,

  • a tremendous success, their rocket got like just

  • to the edge of low earth orbit within really a few feet

  • and so we know now that their rocket works.

  • The company plans

  • to launch another rocket later this year

  • as they continue to inch towards making commercial flights.

  • Eventually, they hope to launch a rocket every single day

  • which could lead to an exponential increase

  • in the number of satellites in orbit.

  • I mean, we're at this super interesting time

  • that I don't think most people are paying attention to,

  • which is that at the start of this year,

  • there are probably about 2200 satellites roughly

  • orbiting the earth.

  • If you look at the launch manifests

  • of the various rocket and satellite companies,

  • that number is supposed to go to about 50,000

  • to a 100,000 satellites in the next five to 10 years.

  • This is the next great technology story,

  • the next great computing infrastructure story

  • is what's going to happen right above our heads

  • and so the next few years are going to bring

  • with them this unbelievable frenetic amount of activity,

  • both from the rocket companies and the satellite companies,

  • and really all the global powers kind of

  • understanding the new rules of engagement

  • that go in to this era when governments

  • do not control this real estate that had been

  • the most prized, expensive real estate there is.

  • Now, just about anyone with a decent amount of money

  • and a decent amount of brains can get to space

  • and do something interesting there.

  • Our customers will be able to go

  • from a concept to a constellation

  • to really helping improve life on earth

  • in months instead of many years

  • and that's really our purpose

  • and I think over the next few years,

  • you'll see us really make it easier to allow space

  • to be a platform for entrepreneurs across the world.

For the last like 50 or 60 years,

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B1 US rocket space orbit launch satellite spacex

The Space Economy is About to Get a Lot Bigger

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    joey joey posted on 2021/07/07
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