What happened

Shares of start-up defense contractor and space launch provider Astra Space (ASTR 3.15%) got a big lift last week after the company announced the United States Space Force had awarded it a multi-launch contract, with its first test payload (STP-27AD1) scheduled to go up as soon as Aug. 27 and a second, operational payload launching "later this year."  

Today, the stock got another boost from the Department of Defense -- rising 13% early in the morning -- after Astra revealed it has won an "Orbital Services Program (OSP)-4 Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contract" from the Space Force.  

Of course, Astra's stock price has already retreated from that high. In fact, as of 11 a.m. EDT, Astra stock is up just 2% -- so why is that?

Chalkboard drawing of stock chart arrow going up being erased and pointing back down

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

My guess? Although Astra wasn't 100% clear (in either of its press releases), it seems possible that the space launch contract ballyhooed today might be the same operational launch that was announced five days ago.

And if that's the case, then today's news isn't really "news" at all, nor would it justify a 13% pop in stock price.

Now what

Here's what is news, however. According to Astra, "the Space Force expects to procure from Astra and the other providers under this [OSP-4] contract approximately 20 missions in total, over the nine-year ordering period."

Granted, it sounds like there will be other companies competing for the work -- and Astra might not win all 20 missions -- and these missions will be spread over nearly a decade-long timeframe in any case. And when you get right down to it, Astra didn't mention how much it will be paid for these launches, nor give any indication of whether they will be profitable for the company. Still, just signing on the Space Force as a customer counts as a win in my book, and a vote of confidence that this stock has a future in space.