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Astra lays off 16% after nearly tripling workforce in the last year

astra team at nasdaq

Astra, a rocket startup that went public last year, told investors Tuesday it laid off 16% of its workforce as part of a wider strategy to increase shrinking financial runway and decrease expenses.

The company also said it would reduce near-term investments in space services to grow its core businesses: namely, launch and spacecraft engines. This latter segment in particular has become a growing source of revenue for Astra, with the company reporting it had 237 committed orders for its spacecraft engines to entities including Maxar, OneWeb and Astroscale. That represents an increase of 130% from last quarter.

Astra is also developing Launch System 2, including a new rocket, software suite and ground system, to replace the lightweight Rocket 3 vehicle that encountered a number of launch failures this year. (Astra announced back in August that it was concluding that rocket program entirely.) The company expects to conduct initial flight tests in the latter half of 2023.

The new financial strategy comes just a few months after Astra hired a new COO, Axel Martinez, a career executive with extensive experience in capital management. At the time, a person familiar with the matter told TechCrunch that the space company needed that expertise in a risk-averse equity environment, with high inflation, interest rates and other factors bearing down across markets.

The layoffs shine an unflattering light on Astra’s quick growth: CEO Chris Kemp told investors during a call Tuesday that the company tripled in size in the space of a year, swelling to more than 400 people. Given that number, Astra reduced its headcount by at least 64 people.

The company concluded the quarter with $151 million in cash. It reported $2.8 million in revenue from its spacecraft engines and a net loss of $199.1 million. Astra anticipates payroll savings from the layoffs to be realized in the first quarter of next year.