Astra Space (ASTR 0.18%) believes it knows what went wrong during a failed test launch, and the company is preparing to try again. The news sent the shares sky high, up nearly 14% for the week as of Thursday afternoon.
Astra Space, which joined public markets back in July via a merger with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), saw its shares plunge in August after a failed test launch. The company's 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.
Space testing is hard, and some setbacks are to be expected. But the results left investors wondering what had gone wrong, and whether there was an easy fix.
This week Astra eased a lot of those concerns, saying it identified a propellant leak as the cause of the mishap and implemented design changes to hopefully correct the problems. The company also announced it would make another attempt to launch a test payload as soon as later this month, identifying a launch window open from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31 and then again from Nov. 5 to Nov. 12 to attempt a launch from its Alaska spaceport.
The update is certainly good news, but Astra still has a lot to prove. We won't know until liftoff whether the problem is truly fixed, or whether other issues will pop up. Even if the test is a success, Astra is still a young company valued by the market at more than $2 billion that's selling into what is at best a very competitive launch market.
There's great potential here, but also a lot of risk. Progress toward a new test launch is good news, and the stock reacted accordingly, but until Astra can demonstrate its ability to get payloads to orbit and attract a large enough share of the launch business, investors should remain cautious about this stock.