What happened

Shares of Astra Space (ASTR 5.17%) fell nearly 20% on Monday morning following a failed test launch over the weekend. Astra is having trouble getting into space, and its shares are losing altitude as a result.

So what

Astra over the weekend planned its first launch since joining public markets in early July via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. It was a big moment for the company, which earlier this month received a license from the Federal Aviation Administration to launch small payloads into orbit.

A rocket blasts off.

Image source: Getty Images.

But the test did not go as planned. The rocket appeared to move sideways from liftoff, and after about two minutes and 30 seconds of flight the crew back on Earth issued an all-engine shutdown. The rocket reached an altitude of 31 miles, failing to reach orbit.

In a post-launch statement, the company said that one of the five main engines shut down less than one second after liftoff.

"We regret that we were unable to accomplish all mission objectives for the U.S. Space Force; however, we captured a tremendous amount of data from this test flight," Astra founder and CEO Chris Kemp said in the statement. "We will incorporate learnings from this test into future launch vehicles."

Now what

As has been said many times here, space is hard. Few successful space ventures have ever completed their objectives without multiple setbacks. The only difference now is that with companies going public earlier, these setbacks are occurring in the glare of public markets.

There is nothing to say Astra Space can't learn from this launch and go on to be a successful endeavor, but even after Monday's declines this remains a speculative venture full of risks that is valued by the market at $2.5 billion. Investors got a fresh reminder of the risks over the weekend, and some are heading for the sidelines as a result.