Mystery rocket company goes public at Alameda Point

Updated February 25, 2020.

In early February 2020, Astra posted a video giving the public and potential customers a look inside their rocket assembly plant at Alameda Point.

Last week on February 18, the company shipped its latest rocket to the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island, Alaska.  The rocket will be launched in the coming days to test its ability to place small satellites into low Earth orbit.

This video shows the journey from Alameda Point to Alaska:

Astra is the only remaining competitor in a competition sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  The federal agency is hoping to spur development of low-cost rockets capable of sending custom-made satellites about the size of a toaster into orbit.  Based upon weather conditions, the launch will take place the week of February 24.  DARPA will be streaming a live video of the launch on their website.

Update Feb. 25, 2020, from DARPA: Due to a major winter weather event expected to impact the Pacific Spaceport Complex on 2/25, the next available launch window will be determined when conditions improve, and the launch countdown clock will be adjusted accordingly.

This video explains the purpose of the Pacific Spaceport Complex, which is owned by the State of Alaska:

If Astra’s launch is able to successfully send three small satellites called cubesats into space, they will win $2 million.  If they can repeat this exercise in March, they will win another $10 million.

But the prize money is not the goal.  “Astra has raised more than $100 million from investors including Acme, Advance, Airbus Ventures, Canaan Partners, Innovation Endeavors, and Salesforce co-founder Marc Benioff,” reported Bloomberg News.  Winning the DARPA competition will mean Astra has bragging rights that they are the go-to company for putting small satellites into orbit.

Besides the commercial market for gathering data such as agricultural crop status and drought conditions, performing disaster reconnaissance, and providing satellite telecommunication, the Pentagon is also hoping Astra is successful.  The Department of Defense is looking for a mobile launch capability to augment its fixed location big rockets, which are expensive to deploy and vulnerable to attack.

One of the satellites mounted on the current test rocket is designed to track thousands of space objects, both functional and junk, orbiting the Earth to help avoid collisions.

This video explains the satellite payloads mounted on Astra’s rockets:

Astra has been testing its rocket engines inside the Navy’s old jet engine test facility at Alameda Point.  And they are assembling rockets in the nearby Building 360 once used by the Navy to overhaul aircraft engines.  Astra invested an undisclosed amount in refurbishing about half of the building, which sits directly to the south of the jet monument and the housing and commercial construction zone at Main Street and West Atlantic Avenue.

Astra is hoping to be producing hundreds of rockets each year, in which they will mount customer-designed cubesats.  CEO Chris Kemp says “the company has signed contracts for more than a dozen launches with paying customers, and it plans to create a launchpad in the Marshall Islands to match the one in Alaska,” Bloomberg News reported.  The company is currently hiring electrical engineers, propulsion engineers, cost accounting managers, an embedded software engineer, a fabrication technician, and mechanical engineers, among others.

The company is currently operating under a license agreement with the City.  It has been in talks with the City for either a long term lease or outright purchase of the entire Building 360.

See below for more videos about the DARPA Launch Challenge:

Author: richard94501

My blog is Alameda Point Environmental Report covering environmental issues from wildlife to cleanup at the former Navy base in Alameda now called Alameda Point. Articles on my blog are frequently printed in the Alameda Sun newspaper. I also host a Twitter site and a Flickr photo site. I hope you find my stories and photos of interest. Richard Bangert Alameda, California

5 thoughts on “Mystery rocket company goes public at Alameda Point”

  1. Richard,

    In your estimation, doers Astra’s use of pre-existing USN buildings at AP that would have been torn down otherwise count as a good reuse of resources or “peace conversion”? It would *seem* to qualify from what you have written in 2019-2020…

    Best wishes,

    Jon

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  2. Clients include governments, military. Not sure all intentions are peaceful.
    Noise is at times an issue in the adjacent residential area

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    1. Astra is causing air, noise and light pollution in our neighborhood and they should not be allowed to continue leasing the buildings at Alameda Point let alone buy them!

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  3. Mitzi’s comments are the same types of complaints/concerns voiced during the operation of the naval facility, when it was still in operation. I retired in 1990 after 32 years at NARF Alameda. During that time I worked in Bldg 360 and the Engine test facility from 1959 until 1975 before relocating to the Aircraft repair facility. Give ASTRA a chance to prove it can and will be a GOOD Neighbor !!

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  4. RE: contaminate solvent, TCE, trichloroethylene (used as a refrigerant and a degreaser) is known and proven to cause heart defects in children, as illustrated by the research into those exposed in Camp Lejeun, NC. This solvent contaminant is also a carcinogen to those exposed, in the general population. There are other problems with this chemical as well. The government and special interest groups have worked incredibly hard to obfuscate and downplay these facts.

    “IR Site 26 – Western Hangar Zone. IR Site 26, the former Western Hangar Zone, is located in the center of the former base and is covered by pavement, four aircraft hangars (Buildings 20 through 23), a painting and finishing building (Building 24), and several ancillary buildings. No COCs were identified for soil at IR Site 26 and COCs identified for groundwater were cis-1,2- dichloroethene (DCE), trichloroethane (TCE), and vinyl chloride (Bechtel Environmental, Inc. The final ROD documented no further action for soil and ISCO, enhanced bioremediation, monitored natural attenuation, and institutional controls for groundwater (Navy 2006b as cited in Tetra Tech, 2013). The Final Remedial Design/Remedial Action Work Plan for groundwater was submitted in October 2008.” – Alameda Point Point Draft Environmental Impact Report, Page 577.

    The term trichloroethane (TCE) is absent/exclude and nowhere to be found in the final City of Alameda Resolution. Nowhere to be found in “Installation Restoration Site Cleanup Progress” or any further analysis that I can locate.

    Is this in FACT because all water and soil containing this contaminant solvent has been removed and or completely remediated with subsequent test data to prove so, from areas where women and children are/may be working or housed?

    Because if not, all projects, proposals and businesses in the above areas and their proximity should be terminated, immediately.

    Thank you for your fantastic work over the years, I have followed your blogs closely. If you have more specific knowledge to share on the topic, I would greatly appreciate same.

    Leslie Zingarelli Oakland Ca (recently priced out of Alameda)

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