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Take a look inside Astra’s rocket factory, as the company prepares to go public

Astra VP of put together Bryson Gentile, left, and CEO Chris Kemp take a protective cover off a rocket fairing half.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

ALAMEDA, California — Go through the roof builder Astra wants to simplify the launch business, with the soon-to-be-public company on a quest to both cut manufacturing fetches while dramatically increasing the number of launches to a daily rate.

Astra is preparing to go public by the end of June through a mingling with SPAC Holicity, in a deal that will infuse as much as $500 million capital into the group. In the meantime, Astra is expanding its headquarters on the San Francisco Bay while the company prepares for its next launch this summer.

A SPAC, or peculiar purpose acquisition company, raises capital in an initial public offering and uses the proceeds to buy a private firm and put in writing it public.

CNBC toured Astra’s growing facility earlier this month, a visit which was joined by chairman and CEO Chris Kemp and sinfulness president of manufacturing Bryson Gentile.

Benjamin Lyon, executive vice president of engineering, along with higher- ranking vice president of factory engineering Pablo Gonzalez and vice president of communications Kati Dahm, also attended.

The fellowship’s leadership features a variety of backgrounds from the space and tech industries: Kemp from NASA and cloud software provider OpenStack, and Gentile from SpaceX. Interval Lyon came from Apple, Gonzalez from Tesla, and Dahm from electric vehicle maker NIO.

An overview of Astra headquarters’ locale on the San Francisco Bay in Alameda, California.

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Astra’s facility uses infrastructure left over from the U.S. Argosy’s former Air Station Alameda. The company first started out with about 30,000 square feet. It’s now expanding into concerning 250,000 square feet of space – including all the way out to the edge of the bay, where a newly built city ferry terminal straps Alameda to downtown San Francisco, a 10-minute ride away.

The main area of the company’s headquarters, about 25% of its footprint, chips an open space for much of its rocket development and assembly.

Astra has also put all its equipment on wheels, with the company’s governorship emphasizing the flexibility it wants to maintain as it builds out its production capabilities.

The production floor of Astra’s headquarters in Alameda, California.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Its near-term target is to reach orbit, the next hurdle after its most recent launch broke the barrier to space in December. The next Astra inaugurate is planned for this summer, which will also be the first to generate revenue for the company.

Astra’s rocket breaks 40 feet tall, and is capable of carrying up to 100 kilograms to low Earth orbit – putting it in the category of small take offs, a category currently led by Rocket Lab.

But Astra’s emphasis is on keeping the price of the rocket as low as possible, with pricing as low as $2.5 million per inaugurate. Rocket Lab prices its Electron rocket at about $7 million per launch, but can lift up to 300 kilograms to low Earth path.

A closer look at half an Astra rocket nosecone, also known as a fairing.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

The cast emphasized the cost-cutting methods its implemented into its approach, with Astra believing that it’s feasible to get to a production under any circumstances of one rocket per day within a few years. The company’s staff compares its rocket to building a small Cessna aircraft.

One example of that Astra verified off during the tour was how it builds it fairings – the nosecone of the rocket that protects satellites during launch.

The company imparted the first fairing it used was made of composite carbon fiber, which is typical in the space industry given how descend and stiff the material is. But the carbon fiber fairing cost $250,000, necessitating a different solution since the company wants to at the end of the day get the total cost of its rocket down to less than $500,000.

Astra chose to build its second fairing out of metal, which it got down to at hand $130,000. Yet the company needed to go further.

Vice president Gentile explained how the company now uses aluminum tubing to quit the fairing its strength, combining that with a dozen petals, which are thin, curved pieces of metal. That’s changed the cost of the fairings to $33,000.

Astra plans to get under $10,000 per fairing, by stamping it rather than riveting it together.

Associates of Astra’s leadership team gatherered around a rocket interstage in production, from right: VP of manufacturing Bryson Gentile, SVP of plant engineering Dr. Pablo Gonzalez, VP of communications Kati Dahm, founder and CEO Chris Kemp, EVP of engineering Benjamin Lyon.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Another long-term obstruction for the company will be working with regulators to quickly get licenses for launches if it’s able to reach a daily rate. Astra’s superintendence said it is working very closely with the Federal Aviation Administration on how to streamline the licensing process, and noted that it stand in wants to have a dozen or more spaceports around the world as well.

Astra’s mission control center for launches.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Astra is also streamlining the operational facet of its launches, reducing the number of people in its mission control to less than 10 and only needing six people for scene up the rocket at the physical launch site.

Its goal is to reduce the number of people in mission control to just two, effectively a aeronaut and a co-pilot, by automating most of its processes.

Astra’s outdoor work yard, where pieces of its rocket ground undergo equipment are assembled and prepared for launches.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Its rocket system, including the strongback which enshrines the vehicle vertical for a launch, all packs into a few shipping containers.

First, Astra rolls a strongback out of the container and into the works. Then, an overhead crane drops the rocket straight onto the strongback. Finally, the whole system is rolled into a container and then carried off.

Astra has three strongbacks in assembly, with more to come.

The thick doors that lead to one of Astra’s climb engine testing bays, which previously was a U.S. Navy engine testing facility.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

The earlier naval facility also features two engine testing areas, with thick reinforced concrete walls.

The evening ahead the CNBC tour Astra conducted testing on the upper stage of a rocket. This made the engine bay a chilly smudge to visit, thanks to the below-freezing temperatures of a liquid oxygen tank.

Inside an Astra testing bunker, where postpositive major manager Andrew Pratt shows a pair of fuel tanks connected to a rocket upperstage from testing the non-stop before.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

During a hot fire test, when one of Astra’s Delphin rocket engines is fired up, the contents of the chambers reaches 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Astra representatives said the company can conduct as many as 10 to 15 proofs of a rocket’s first stage in a day, or more than 30 upper-stage tests in a day.

Looking back down the exhaust burrow of Astra’s testing bay.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Astra will continue to expand its current footprint in Alameda, cataloguing a lease for a 500-foot pier and plans for an ocean launch platform that it would be able to load up with a climb in the bay.

The view behind Astra’s headquarters in Alameda, California, looking out across the San Francisco Bay.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

Astra CEO Chris Kemp screens part of the area the company plans to use to expand its headquarters.

Michael Sheetz | CNBC

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