After getting a boost from Craig McCaw, Astra rocket venture gets set to go public on July 1

Astra, the California-based space startup that’s aiming to merge with a blank-check company founded by Seattle telecom pioneer Craig McCaw, has set a July 1 target date to go public on Nasdaq.

That’s the word from Chris Kemp, Astra’s founder, chairman and CEO. “We will start mailing proxy statements today for shareholders of $HOL to vote ahead of the shareholder meeting on 6/30,” Kemp said in a LinkedIn posting. $HOL is the symbol for Holicity, McCaw’s special purpose acquisition company in Kirkland, Wash.

The Astra-Holicity SPAC deal values Kemp’s company at $2.1 billion.

Astra’s Rocket 3.2 launch vehicle made it to space during a test launch from Alaska in December but narrowly missed reaching orbit. Since then, the company has been preparing for its next launch — and racking up business deals.

Last month, Astra announced an agreement to work on a multi-launch mission for Planet’s Earth observation satellites in 2022. And today, Astra said it would acquire Apollo Fusion in a transaction valued at up to $145 million. The deal is due to close after Astra goes public.

Apollo Fusion manufactures the electric propulsion system that’s due to be used on one of the variants of Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc.’s Sherpa orbital tug. The first Sherpa-LTE is scheduled for launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket no earlier than this month.

“In addition to increasing Astra’s total addressable market for launch services, the acquisition of Apollo Fusion accelerates Astra’s ability to efficiently deliver and operate spacecraft beyond low Earth orbit,” Kemp said in a news release.

McCaw, 71, is best-known as a trailblazer in the cellular phone industry. McCaw Cellular was sold to AT&T in 1994 for $11.5 billion. Craig McCaw’s other telecom ventures have included Nextel, Clearwire and Teledesic.

The Teledesic satellite telecom venture fizzled out in the 1990s. But when the Astra-Holicity deal was announced in February, McCaw said that space companies like Astra — coupled with satellite ventures like SpaceX’s Starlink and Amazon’s Project Kuiper — were finally making good on Teledesic’s promise of global connectivity.

“I’ve long believed that there has been an amazing opportunity to provide communication satellites, essentially an internet in the sky, with the opportunity to provide the internet anywhere and everywhere, fulfilling one of humanity’s great needs — and very consistent with the needs represented by a pandemic,” he said at the time. “We see all of that happening now with the Starlink and Kuiper constellations coming with thousands of satellites.”

Soon after the Astra-Holicity SPAC deal was announced, McCaw founded yet another SPAC called Colicity, which has a $345 million war chest and is focused on technology, media and telecom investments.

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