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Astra makes space deals as it gets set to go public

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.

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Telecom pioneer hitches up with rocket venture

Back in the 1990s, cellular telecom pioneer Craig McCaw bought into a vision of ubiquitous wireless service via a constellation of satellites, with an assist from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.

Almost a quarter-century later, McCaw’s Teledesic venture is long-dead, but the dream lives on — thanks to the impending merger of McCaw’s Holicity “blank check” company and Astra, one of the rising stars of the satellite launch industry.

The deal — which takes advantage of the trend toward using special purpose acquisition companies, or SPACs, to take startups public — values Astra at a double-unicorn level of $2.1 billion, and would unlock up to $500 million in cash proceeds.

Not bad for a space company that hasn’t yet quite made it to orbit.