The Astra Report 30-Apr-2023
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Starship exploded 4 mins after blast off (Daily Mail 20-Apr)
Sweden accidentally crash rocket into Norway (Reuters 25-Apr)
Kenya launch 1st satellite with SpaceX (Reuters 15-Apr)
The Astra's View
It’s a harsh reality that using rockets to launch anything very fast into an altitude high enough to reach orbit is both dangerous and requires very large amounts of energy with a correspondingly high carbon footprint. The Astra is intrigued by the French Zephalto plan described below which might provide a superior “space tourist” experience to the more carbon intensive and dangerous alternatives being developed by rocket powered competitors. 
Fun Fact: Zephalto (a French low-carbon balloon flight company) has partnered with the French Space Agency to offer “Edge of Space” balloon flights from 2025. These would reach 15.5 miles high, x3 higher than commercial aircraft. There would be a clear view of Earth’s curvature to enjoy with the 3 hour gourmet lunch and wine tasting for just $132,000 (Bloomberg 19-Apr)

The Astra Report 31-Mar-2023
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
UK & Japan sign joint military space pact (PR 17-Mar)
Spain establishes its own space agency ( 31-Mar)
Roscosmos facility seized by Kazakhstan (Aviacionline  14-Mar)
The Astra's View
Virgin Orbit’s demise highlights how military uses continue to drive the bulk of space budgets, despite the publicity given to tourism.
Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome was seized over a contract dispute. Kazakhstan is planning to fund its own nation’s projects. The Astra is wondering if this may turn into a more serious dispute?  It is of great strategic importance and Russia dislikes former Soviet states building independent military programmes.
Fun Fact: Harvard astronomer Avi Loeb has launched a $1.5m search for debris from Oumuamu - an object from another solar system that exploded over Papua New Guinea in 2014, which he believes was an alien probe (Daily Mail 23-Mar)

The Astra Report 28-Feb-2023
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Chinese ”spy balloon” shot down ( 04-Feb)
US Space Force funding 60-70 projects (SpaceNews 25-Feb)
China/Egypt launches Horus1 (PR 25-Feb)
The Astra's View
Where “space” begins is not agreed by all nations to be the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale preferred 100km Karman line. The Astra reports on anything above the altitude of commercial planes. Balloons can reach 40km but the Chinese one shot down was in the 20km limit of a U-2 “Dragon Lady” whose pilot took a selfie with it. This reminds The Astra of the “Sputnik” moment that boosted NASA spending and observes that the US Space Force plans are orders of magnitude above other nations.
Fun Fact: An easyJet pilot made a 360° turn at 37,000ft to let passengers enjoy the northern lights while flying from Iceland to Britain (Daily Mail 28-Feb)

The Astra Report 31-Jan-2023
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Premium Android phones to get Qualcomm satellite chip (BBC 05-Jan)
US sanctions China firm for supplying Russia with Ukraine images (SpaceNews 27-Jan)
Virgin Orbit launch fails (Bloomberg 09-Jan)
The Astra's View
After record investment in 2021 the 58% drop in space funding last year has been similar to other risk asset funding such as technology in general. The Astra does not view this with concern given the cyclical nature of the tech investment cycle. Space has been an important factor in the Ukraine military arena and is likely to gain prominence. Civilian use such as Android (following Apple which added it to iPhone 14) to enable satellite connectivity is an important indicator of how the mass market may get involved to fund growth. The service will be initially limited to text, but the ability to get urgent communications regardless of local network availability is likely to appeal to many users.  
Fun Fact: NASA Administrator and former Senator Bill Nelson has warned that China may claim the Moon as sovereign territory. The Astra reminds him that Nevada’s Dennis Hope has already sold millions of acres of land on the Moon at $19.99 an acre (and Mars at $22.49) so there may be legal claims too.  (Politico 01-Jan)

The Astra Report 31-Dec-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
China wants to partner with Gulf nations (SpaceNews 30-Dec)
NASA taps Collins to develop spacesuits (SpaceNews 08-Dec)
Lift-off for new technology with UK Space Agency funding (PR 14-Dec)
The Astra's View
The SpaceX CEO and the world’s (not any more) richest man Elon Musk is losing credibility for his Earth based ventures. The Astra’s suggests this makes his ambitions elsewhere come into question, despite being mostly unrelated. Is this unfair? Tesla sales are slowing and his Boring Company is struggling to plan a tunnel from LA to San Francisco (his improved version of what the rest of the world calls a railway but with smaller passenger compartments). Why is his trip to Mars any less likely? So far the private sector revenue for space flight has included many tourist trips. Has the luxury tourist market become less buoyant? Sadly the Astra fears these are all connected and capital for the sector will be harder to locate.
Fun Fact: The Astra is impressed but not shocked that horse manure worked well in a nutrition experiment ( 03-Dec)

The Astra Report 30-Nov-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Artemis1 moon mission launch successful ( 16-Nov)
SpaceX delays Japanese moon lander launch (Twitter 30-Nov)
Europe's ministers hope to raise space budget 25% (BBC 21-Nov)
The Astra's View
NASA’s largest ever launch vehicle sent a probe off to the moon in a timely reminder of US dominance in the field following October’s EU Mars mission cancellation due to the breakdown in Russian relations. Mars was at its perigee 30-Nov so the next attempt to reach it will be that bit further away. A Chinese plan to test whether monkeys can breed in space (earlier Russian rat tests failed) is a sign of how little we understand of the sustainability of life in extreme conditions.
Fun Fact: The date of this report is celebrated as St Andrew’s Day. St Andrew’s University in Scotland recently announced a new 6 person research team to study what kind of language might be used to communicate should alien life be met. The Astra hopes the accent is easier to understand than his Scottish relatives (PR 02-Nov)

The Astra Report 31-Oct-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Space adverts are now viable (New Scientist 06-Oct)
Musk says he'll keep funding Starlink (Twitter 15-Oct)
UK lack of progress in space “unacceptable” and “lagging behind Italy” (PR 19-Oct)
The Astra's View
Advertising is responsible for funding many of technology’s great innovations. Study Middle Ages history and it’s clear that printing was funded by the desire of a church to deliver its message more broadly. There is money available to fund anything as long as the sponsor expects to get their message in front of many, many potential customers/followers. The Astra wonders if Musk bought Twitter to direct more advertising eyeballs to his projects? None of this is science, it’s entertainment.
Fun Fact: Tom Cruise’s space movie will make him the “first civilian to do a spacewalk outside of the Space Station,” Universal boss says (Variety 11-Oct)

The Astra Report 30-Sep-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
NASA's DART hits asteroid (PR 27-Sep)
China didn't mention Russia as space partner ( 29-Sep)
US FCC adopts first space junk rule (PR 29-Sep)
The Astra's View
Hungary’s 4iG struck a deal to buy satellite operator Spacecom a year ago. After resistance from the Israeli govt it may now be able to buy it in stages. Such deals do not have the news appeal of DART hitting its target but illustrate well how important control of communications is to governments. Hungary is openly accused by politicians in fellow EU states of extremist policies. Its citizens, guided by information they receive locally, will influence the whole of the EU. They’ve been suggested as the next country that might leave in a “Huxit”. Politicians in all countries are keen to have media coverage shaped to their liking. Controlling satellites that deliver media (including internet access) to many of their citizens is a valuable asset. The Astra expects that more countries will seek control of satellites over them and the messages beamed through them.
Fun Fact: China will fly space tourists in 2025 ( 20-Sep)

The Astra Report 30-Jun-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Sierra Space signs with Turkish Space Agency (SpaceNews 29-Jun)
Saudi Arabia 'is back’ says prince (Al Arabiya News 18-Jun)
South Korea launches 'new era' for space program (ABC News 21-Jun)
The Astra's View
The Astra detects a trend towards many countries preferring to promote their own interests more assertively. For example Turkey may be pushing for EU membership yet it is pursuing independent space options. The plight of Ukraine with no independent satellite capability will be uppermost in the minds of strategic thinkers in many countries which rely on superpowers for help.
Fun Fact:  Jeff Koons will send 125 sculptures to the lunar surface with Elon Musk's SpaceX - after he sells them as NFTs (Daily Mail 19-Jun)

The Astra Report 31-May-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Russia takes battle into space and targets GPS in Ukraine (Times 11-May)
Boeing Starliner capsule docks with ISS (Reuters 22-May)
China racing US to mine the Moon's minerals (Bloomberg 17-May)
The Astra's View
The Astra is accumulating more and more positive views on private sector performance in space. Historically this is not unusual. The British monarch (and others) hired “privateers” to help them control seas where they were experts and incentivised them accordingly. The Astra notes that countries establishing military capabilities in space for the first time may find it much more cost effective to pay the private sector than to re-educate their existing forces. For example a constellation of small satellites might be launched by private firms more efficiently than incumbent space agencies who have concentrated on big-ticket projects like the moon shot or the ISS. Economic sense is to let the provider with the advantage take the lead.
Fun Fact: Californian company the Orbital Assembly Corporation has two space hotels in the pipeline, and it says that the first could be open by as early as 2025  ( 19-May)

The Astra Report 30-Apr-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
SpaceX and USAID deliver 5,000 Starlink terminals to Ukraine ( 07-Apr)
Russia says ISS cooperation only possible once sanctions are lifted (Reuters 02-Apr)
Palantir's Satellogic now in orbit (Bloomberg 04-Apr)
The Astra's View
Elon Musk has this month intervened in a war by delivering important communications technology to the Ukraine. He also revealed his take over of Twitter, one of the world’s most influential opinion formers, which banned a sitting US president. Commercially funded military support from the world’s richest has been a feature of history for millennia and this is clearly continuing. The Astra expects that both space and “cyberspace” will demand even more attention (and funding) from the world’s powerful nations (and individuals) than it already does.
Fun Fact: Canadian Chris Hadfield (singer and guitarist on the ISS of Bowie’s Space Oddity) says weed grown in space might be the best medical-grade cannabis yet (The Sun 21-Apr)

The Astra Report 31-Mar-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Russians to give American ISS astronaut ride to Earth (BBC 15-Mar)
Roscosmos head says satellite hacking would justify war (Reuters 02-Mar)
Tiangong space station open for tourism within a decade ( 22-Mar)
The Astra's View
The war in Ukraine has intruded on space more than the Astra can recall at any time in the past. Cold War tensions involved the fear of space being used either by ICBMs passing through it or by “Star Wars” technology being developed to dominate that arena. This month launch contracts have been cancelled, threats made by senior Russians to abandon astronauts in the ISS or to destroy it, and attacks reported by hackers on space facilities. The Astra is watching to see if space (and cyberspace) attacks are introduced the established definitions of “acts of war” and if longer term investments are increased to prepare readiness for them.
Fun Fact: A tiny former police station has become Scotland’s SaxaVord space missions and rocket launches HQ (Scottish Sun 26-Mar)

The Astra Report 28-Feb-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Rio Tinto joins the space race (Mining Weekly 14-Feb)
Wales could boost economy by £2bn (BBC 22-Feb)
Musk suggests SpaceX could rescue ISS (Twitter 26-Feb)
The Astra's View
The destruction of 40 of Elon Musk’s Starlink satellites by a space storm reminds the Astra of the fragility of that environment. It is juxtaposed with hubris of his suggestion that Musk’s firm might help with the ISS after war/sanctions threaten its support. The world’s richest man tweeted about getting involved to take advantage of troubles between governments? And Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich has emerged as a possible peace broker between the West and Putin? The Astra observes the majesty of money may be guiding the global agenda about things extra-globe.
Fun Fact: Alien life found onboard the ISS, but it’s only so-far unidentified bacteria (Mirror 17-Feb)

The Astra Report 31-Jan-2022
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
RAF man unleashes Virgin Orbit space rocket over Pacific (BBC 14-Jan)
China towed a defunct satellite into higher orbit. ( 27-Jan)
Unrest In Kazakhstan not affecting Baikonur complex (NYT 07-Jan)
The Astra's View
The Astra views the choice to have Shijian-21 tow junk higher up (rather than push it down to burn up in the atmosphere) as an effort to demonstrate that they have the capability to manipulate satellites. Until now only the US was thought able to do this. Russia is also attracting publicity by reminding us that its space initiatives rely on a nation that was once part of its empire. This is happening just as the West fears they may make another move to rebuild it. Military goals were historically a part of many nations’ desires to master space. How little seems to have changed.
Fun Fact: Earth spends vast resources looking for signs of life outside our planet. UC Santa Barbara is sending tardigrades to space. The Astra puzzles as to what any life out there might think of our choice of water bears as explorers? ( 06-Jan)

The Astra Report 31-Dec-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Elon Musk criticised after China complaint to UN (FT 28-Dec)
Virgin Orbit raises less than hoped (FT 30-Dec)
US commits to ISS extension to 2030 (PR 31-Dec)
The Astra's View
The Astra is provoked by Musk’s reply to China’s UN complaint. Musk’s word “tiny” is subjective and (worse)gives no error margin for his view. His claim that all of the thousands of satellites his firm has launched remain within a narrowly defined orbit needs evidence. If even a small percentage are outside that, the number that threaten life may be substantial. Only last month ISS protagonists were outraged by the Russian military test that put thousands of pieces of shrapnel in its path. “Tiny” is a word that can be used for shrapnel (or a virus) but the size does not explain the risk. The media likes precise words but reality has an error margin. Please Elon use some science not just media-worthy words. What percent of your thousands of satellites may have strayed away from target? The answer cannot be zero. What is it?
Fun Fact: Dogebonk beats Musk's dogecoin rocket mission to become “1st space memecoin” (Express 19-Dec)

The Astra Report 30-Nov-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
NASA's DART mission will try to move an asteroid ( 21-Nov)
Space balloon tourism looks set to take off (ITIJ 03-Nov)
LightSail 2 is still soaring two years after launch ( 19-Nov)
The Astra's View
The Astra considers asteroid diversion to be a priority in contingency planning for human survival. The DART project begins an important stage in that for a relatively low cost and risk compared to headline grabbing projects to put humans into space or Mars. Important context to that comes from the space balloon alternative to rocket launches. Rockets can deliver people for just a minute or two to altitudes higher than Concorde or the SR71 Blackbird where passengers have the illusion of being in “space”. For much less money, balloon technology can deliver a safer, longer lasting and more luxurious experience that would be comparable. 
Fun Fact: For the first time astronauts eat space-grown chili bean tacos on the ISS (Business Insider 02-Nov)

The Astra Report 31-Oct-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Russia sends movie makers to ISS (BBC 5-Oct)
China tests new hypersonic missile (FT 16-Oct)
South Korea launches first space rocket Nuri (BBC 22-Oct)
The Astra's View
Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin plan for a “space business park” includes a film shooting section but Russia will be the first to make an actual movie. The phrase quoted below made popular in science fiction’s Star Trek is said to have its origin in a US government promotion intended to gather popular support to fund projects competing with Russia’s Sputnik. The Astra notes with interest how nations are again competing with each other in space and how history repeats itself with the use of popular media in what is mainly a technological or military driven arena.
Fun Fact: 90 year old William Shatner takes Blue Origin flight to become the oldest human astronaut. “Space: the final frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before.” (BBC 13-Oct)

The Astra Report 31-Aug-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Biggest ever rocket is assembled by SpaceX (BBC 06-Aug)
$1bn NASA spacesuit delays 2024 moon project (UPI 10-Aug)
Astra Space launch fails (UPI 28-Aug)
The Astra's View
The update from NASA's Inspector General on its 2017 estimates was followed by an Elon Musk tweet offering to take on the project. Funding delays are part of the reason but the Astra is encouraged that private sector led efforts appear to be delivering cost-effectively. The SpaceX rocket test-assembled in Texas claims to deliver twice the thrust of Saturn V, the previously largest, at lower payload cost than it or the shuttle. The Astra is reminded by the spacesuit cost that advances in robot technology since the Apollo program could offer a far more cost-effective lower risk way to expand man’s knowledge than sending humans.
Fun Fact: University of Cambridge says "Hycean planets open new avenue in our search for life" in more numerous environments that are less like Earth (IOP 26-Aug)

The Astra Report 31-Jul-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Virgin Galactic reaches the edge of space (Universe Today 16-Jul)
UK Space Command officially launched (PR 30-Jul)
FastKD satellites could adapt to avert asteroid impact ( 07-Jul)
The Astra's View
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale accepts the von Karman line at 100km above sea level as the edge of space. 125km is the lowest at which circular orbit is sustainable (the ISS is at 400km) and below 100km is where meteors usually burn up. Virgin Galactic reached 86km where some elliptical orbit’s perigees would intersect. The Astra applauds their achievement and hopes that humanity will be inspired by it. They successfully adapted proven technologies. That is the strategy the 36,000km high FastKD developers plan to use to deflect an incoming asteroid.
Fun Fact: A Harvard scientist is searching for aliens ( 26-Jul)

The Astra Report 30-Jun-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
First Tianhe Space Station crew arrives (BBC 17-Jun)
11mins space trip with Bezos sells for $28m (CNN 14-Jun)
Branson's Unity gets FAA licence (WSJ 25-Jun)
The Astra's View
The rumoured rivalry between Branson and Bezos to beat the other into space next month (04-Jul is a possible launch date) is fun but only a side-show to the China vs USA rivalry for domination of the outer world. While Russia has faded as the primary adversary for US foreign influence, China looms ever larger. The selfie its Mars rover took and its own space station are the public elements but other military projects operate in the background. The Astra notes with interest the less well publicised 70km high balloon test and “near-space” projects to provide back-up internet and surveillance capabilities should older satellite technology be disabled.
Fun Fact: 10bn light-year long space "tendrils" are the biggest spinning objects ever found. (Independent 17-Jun)

The Astra Report 31-May-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
SpaceX successfully lands Starship ( 05-May)
China’s Mars vehicle rolls out (Mars Daily 22-May)
Virgin Galactic first successful flight in 2 years (UPI 22-May)
The Astra's View
A series of successes after a few months of bad news reminds the Astra that this kind of pioneering work is not a smooth ride.
Fun Fact: The 26-May lunar eclipse was the second shortest in a thousand year span (EarthSky 26-May)

The Astra Report 30-Apr-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Ingenuity helicopter successfully flew on Mars (NASA 15-Apr)
Ningbo to build $3bn China launchpad site (Space News 08-Apr)
Russian space agency uses blockchain to protect IP (Cointelegraph 27-Apr)
The Astra's View
Jeff Bezos has joined Dynetics in complaining about the $2.9bn NASA contract awarded to SpaceX and Elon Musk lost no time in mocking the world’s richest man. The Astra notes that the 2020-21 budget of the World Health Organisation is $5.8bn of which the Covid budget is less than 20%. With a tiny percentage of vaccine manufacturing capability located in Latin America and none in Africa, The Astra wonders if these two gentlemen’s spending could be redirected to constructing facilities to sustain life on Earth rather than developing space transport and facilities that very few people will ever use? The WHO COVAX project is appealing for an additional $2bn to provide 1.8bn doses which is a little over 1% of the value of Bezos or Musk’s net worth and less than the boost to Amazon’s profit attributable to Covid related changes in shopping habit…
Fun Fact: “Galactic Combat,” a new format of mixed martial arts fights will take place in space with zero gravity (PR 28-Apr)

The Astra Report 31-Mar-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Apophis data rules out 2068 impact (NASA 25-Mar)
Starship SN10 lands and explodes (NYT 04-Mar)
Virgin Galactic unveils new space plane (Space News 30-Mar)
The Astra's View
Another Starship, the SN11, exploded on landing yesterday. The Astra is inspired by CEO Elon Musk’s positive spin in his tweet: “At least the crater is in the right place!”. Asteroid Apophis is smaller than the ship that blocked the Suez Canal last week. NASA’s conclusion from its flyby on 05-Mar is also inspiring. The next and much closer encounter (closer than some satellites and due to be visible to the naked eye) will be socially distant and thus avoid the 10 million deaths its impact is estimated it might have. 13-Apr-2029 is in the Astra’s calendar.
Fun Fact: Orbital Assembly Corp plans Space hotel for 2027 (Daily Mail 01-Mar)

The Astra Report 28-Feb-2021
Top 3 Company, Macro, and Risk Headlines
Perseverance landed on Mars (NASA 22-Feb)
India launches its first mission of the year (Space News 28-Feb)
South Korea will spend $553m in 2021 on space activities (Space News 28-Feb)
The Astra's View
It is a measure of the human achievement to see the images from Mars. It’s also a price-point to understand what putting an un-manned helicopter costs against the price of delivering (and returning) a human. The Astra is awestruck…
Fun Fact: The Bishop of Orlando might also be the Bishop of the Moon according to the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Diocese of Orlando 18-Jun-2016)