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The Margin: Astra postpones space launch again, shares drop 14%

For years NASA was main organization who would routinely launch aircraft into space. That is certainly no longer the case.

During the last few years, other companies including Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Amazon AMZN, +0.19% founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic SPCE, -4.67%, began launching rockets, and sometimes people, into the final frontier.

Enter Astra Space Inc. ASTR, -13.70%, the newest aerospace launch vehicle company.

Astra is a fairly new company as it was founded in 2016 by Chris Kemp and Adam London — it trades on the NASDAQ COMP, -0.58% Compsite Index under the ticker symbol ASTR.

According to Astra’s website, the company goal is “to improve life on Earth from space by creating a healthier and more connected planet.”

And a huge step toward that goal was its first-ever rocket launch from Cape Canveral, Fla. with NASA on Monday. The Astra Rocket 3.3 was scheduled to launch between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. EST, but was postponed due to a telemetry problem.

The objective of its ELaNa 41 mission, which is being postponed to a later date, is to launch four small, shoebox-sized satellites known as CubeSates, which is part of a $3.9 million contract with NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program. That’s according to the launch details provided by Astra. There will be no humans on board this mission.

Astra’s rocket will be the smallest orbital-class launcher to ever fly from Cape Canaveral, and it is one of the smallest satellite launchers in the world.

Astra has successfully launched aircraft in the past. Its last launch came in November during a demonstration mission with a U.S. Space Force payload from another one of the company’s spaceports in Kodiak, Alaska, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Monday’s failed launch was originally set to take place on Saturday, Feb. 5, but was rescheduled after a range hardware failure, making it the second time the mission was postponed.

Shares of Astra dropped 13.7% during Monday’s trading.

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