Oddballs out (9/14/23)
Good morning. Happy Thursday! Hope everyone is having a great week.
🛰️ Russia’s offer to help North Korea
🚀 Astra’s stock split
📝 The contract report
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Kim Jong Un and Putin Meet at Russian Spaceport
Image: Sputnik Global
Kim Jong Un met with Russian president Vladimir Putin at Russia’s Vostochny Cosmodrome space center yesterday, marking the first meeting between the leaders in four years. Against the backdrop of the Russian launch facility, the pair discussed providing support for Kim’s satellite program and the possibility of sending the first North Korean to space.
After Kim arrived in eastern Russia via armored train, the two leaders kicked off their five-hour meeting, which included exploring the Angara rocket manufacturing facility and the Soyuz-2 engineering building.
During the tour, Kim reportedly took immense interest in Moscow’s rocket program, asking for details about the size of rockets that could launch from Vostochny, which is intended to provide redundancy for Russia’s launch range at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The two leaders also discussed sending a North Korean to space.
When reporters asked if Moscow would support Pyongyang’s satellite program, Putin said, "This is why we are visiting here. The North Korean leader has expressed a strong interest in rocket technology, and they are also seeking to develop space exploration capabilities."
Space hermit: North Korea has twice attempted and twice failed to launch a recon satellite to space this year. While the leaders did not share specifics on the proposed partnership, the Kremlin could transfer rocket know-how, satellite tech, or provide transport to space—all of which would be a significant violation of sanctions and provoke further anger from the international community.
Russia’s space program has been feeling the pain of Western sanctions that have led to international partners abandoning Moscow launch vehicles.
South Korea terminated a years-long launch relationship earlier this year due to the untenable situation.
“Probably, some of our foreign partners may be afraid of the emergence of so-called secondary sanctions from the EU countries because of business ties with us,” said Khrunichev Center chief Alexey Varochko.
A potential partnership with North Korea would represent a strengthening of military, economic, and geopolitical interests between the two ostracized countries.
US eyes in the skies: With North Korea venturing into military satellites and building up its arsenal of ballistic missiles, the US is investing heavily in its SDA national missile defense constellation. The satellites will be used to help detect and track potential North Korean and Russian missile threats.
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Astra Space Announces Reverse Stock Split
Astra Space announced a reverse stock split on Wednesday in a last ditch effort to prevent a delisting on the stock exchange.
The company’s board of directors approved the stock split of Astra’s Class A and Class B common stock, both valued at $0.0001, at a ratio of one for 15, effective immediately.
Coming back to Earth: The company was the first launch startup to trade on the NASDAQ back in the SPAC-apalooza of 2021, and the move fueled Astra’s plans to expand its launch services. But its ambitious foray on the stock market hit trouble in July when the company’s stock price dwindled below the $1 per share minimum requirement set by NASDAQ.
Enter the reverse stock split. It’s a common tool utilized by struggling companies, including Momentus and Spire, to artificially bump up a stock price while preserving their market cap value.
The reverse stock split was first announced in July in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Some history: The company’s stock price wasn’t the only thing struggling. As venture firms tightened their purse strings, Astra was not immune to the workforce exodus that plagued the tech industry.
As the company expanded into spacecraft thruster production, it also laid off 70 employees and transferred another 50 out of its launch vehicle division. On an earnings call, CEO Chris Kemp said the company was actively looking for strategic investors as its financial runway was dwindling.
Meanwhile, the company had to delay the development of its Rocket 4 vehicle, which was previously projected to be ready for its first test flight in 2023. It’s the latest of a string of setbacks, including the one last year, when the company had to abandon Rocket 3.
For what it's worth, Astra Space is still running. We can’t say the same for a similar satellite launch company, Virgin Orbit, which went bankrupt back in April.
New Speaker Confirmed For Space Capitol II
We’re so excited to announce that Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), the chair of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, will join us for Space Capitol II in DC next week!
The event will bring together emerging space companies and the government for a thought leadership and networking experience, with food and beverages provided.
In Other News
SpaceX is no longer losing money on producing Starlink terminals (h/t CNBC).
The FAA’s acting chief said she is optimistic that a Starship license will be issued sometime next month.
Sen. Cruz (R-TX) believes that a federal moratorium on commercial spaceflight regulation set to expire in October should be extended.
The Contract Report
Spaceium teamed up with The Exploration Company on a demo mission to refuel a spacecraft in orbit (via Payload).
Turion nabbed six recent contracts from NASA, the Space Force, and the Air Force, each supporting a different area of its product stack (via Payload).
Ball Aerospace nabbed a $490M NOAA contract to build a sounder for the GeoXO program.
Telesat ($TSAT) signed a 14-launch contract with SpaceX.
Rocket Lab ($RKLB) won a Leidos contract to launch four suborbital HASTE missions.
Airbus secured a Thaicom contract to build a GEO satellite.
SpaceX joined forces with SES to provide connectivity for the cruise market.
The View from Space
Image: NASA/Goddard/SwRI/Johns Hopkins APL
NASA’s Lucy spacecraft sent back its first two images of Dinkinesh, a half-mile wide asteroid in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The image on the right circles the asteroid, which is still 14M miles from the spacecraft.