What happened

Space sector start-up company Astra Space (ASTR -0.22%) has more than 50 launches under contract, but the latest one it announced today has investors especially excited. The reaction has shares of Astra trading 30% higher as of 2:45 p.m. EDT. 

So what

After going public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) last month, the space company already had plans to be taking customer payloads into low Earth orbit beginning this year. Today, Astra announced it received a multi-launch contract with the Department of Defense's United States Space Force. A window for the first test payload launch begins on Aug. 27, and the contract calls for a second launch later this year. The late August launch will be the first for the company since going public. 

rocket launching from launch pad.

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

Attention on the space sector has been dominated recently with space travel companies Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic Holdings launching their respective billionaire founders, Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson, to the edge of space. But investors may be shifting the focus on opportunities to profit with the more established launches of payloads including satellites. 

Colonel Carlos Quinones, director of the Department of Defense Space Test Program, said in a statement, "We are thrilled to partner with Astra on this mission and believe this showcases critical low-cost, mobile and responsive launch capability." 

The first launch is scheduled to leave Astra's Kodiak, Alaska, spaceport with a launch window range of Aug. 27 to Sept. 11.