More private rocket companies are actually now coming online, after years of the field being left basically to SpaceX and Rocket Lab. At TC Sessions: Space 2021 this past week, we spoke to three rocket makers who have either already launched, achieved orbit or are well on their way: Firefly Aerospace’s Lauren Lyons, Astra’s Benjamin Lyon and Launcher’s Max Haot.
In our discussion, “New Kids on the Launch Block,” one common theme that quickly emerged was that vertical integration is a key driver of success in the rocket business is driving down costs, especially with smaller capacity launch vehicles. Just as, if not more important, is building a team that can execute with a focus on efficiency, iteration and flexibility.
I think space tech is all about rapidly iterating, as opposed to working for seven to 10 years on a single product, and having that bespoke application, because it means you have to know perfectly what the future is. And nobody buys an iPhone and then 10 years later says this is the best thing in the world, you want the latest thing. And so similarly, when you think about iterating, and doing space tech, both again, launch as well as on orbit, you really want this iterative approach that’s very focused on customers, as opposed to kind of the old school way of doing aerospace. I think that’s a key way to think about the future. Similarly, when we think about how we operate inside Astra, we think very hard about where can we get this down to basically a robot, where the robots doing the work [ … ] Now, obviously, there’s a path, there’s a roadmap to get there. But getting down to just a few people in mission control, and just a few people on the ground where we do the launch, that’s been something we’ve worked hard on, and recently just made it to orbit with. So I think that is a strategy that is really working and paying dividends.