Astra lays off 25% of workforce, reallocates engineers, in an effort to fight dwindling cash reserves

Astra has laid off 25% of its workforce since the beginning of the quarter and is reallocating at least 50 engineers and manufacturing staff away from its launch business to focus on spacecraft production, the company said Friday.

The reallocation and layoffs are expected to delay testing of the under-development Rocket 4 and Launch System 2.0, Astra said. The affected employees worked in the company’s launch, sales and administration and “shared services” departments. Workforce reductions are expected to save the company more than $4 million per quarter beginning in the fourth quarter of this year.

Astra, which is facing dwindling cash reserves, is no doubt looking for a way to further reduce operating expenses while also bolstering its spacecraft engine business, the only business unit that currently has a near-term chance of generating revenue. The spacecraft engine technology is sourced from Astra’s acquisition of propulsion developer Apollo Fusion, which closed the day Astra went public in July 2021.

Indeed, Astra said that it had closed 278 committed orders of the Astra Spacecraft Engine product through the end of March, which totals around $77 million in contracts once the engines are delivered. A “substantial majority” of these orders will be delivered through the end of 2024, the company said.

“We are intensely focused on delivering on our commitments to our customers, which includes ensuring we have sufficient resources and an adequate financial runway to execute on our near-term opportunities,” Chris Kemp, CEO and founder, said in a statement.

Astra also said that it had engaged investment bank PJT Partners as a financial advisor as it looks for more capital to continue operations. That includes “potential strategic investments in the Astra Spacecraft Engine business to strengthen Astra’s balance sheet,” the company said. Separately, Astra said it had raised $10.8 million in a debt sale to investment group High Trail Capital.

According to preliminary second-quarter financial results, Astra is expected to have revenues between $0.5-$1 million, while having just $26-$26.5 million in cash on hand.

This is not the first time major layoffs have hit the space company. Last November, Astra announced it had let go of 16% of its employees, also to focus on launch and spacecraft engines.