A California-based space venture called Astra marked its first day as a publicly traded company today, completing a financial transition in which Seattle-area telecom pioneer Craig McCaw played a key role.
Astra went public on Nasdaq by virtue of a transaction with Holicity — a special-purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, that was headed by McCaw and headquartered in Kirkland, Wash. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates provided financial backing for Holicity through a sponsoring fund called Pendrell Corp.
The Astra-Holicity business combination, first announced in February, was approved on Wednesday by Holicity’s shareholders. The transaction valued Astra at more than $2 billion, and brought in about $500 million in cash proceeds that Astra will use to accelerate growth and develop its space services platform.
“Becoming a public company is an important milestone in our mission to improve life on Earth from space,” Chris Kemp, Astra’s founder, chairman and CEO, said in a news release that heralded Holicity’s final signoff on the deal. “All of us at Astra are humbled by the opportunity to have the support of public shareholders and are grateful to the many people who have contributed so much to help us realize our vision of a healthier and more connected planet.”
McCaw — a veteran of ventures ranging from McCaw Cellular to Nextel to Teledesic — was the chairman and CEO of Holicity. He and Michael Lehman, Sun Microsystems’ former chief financial officer, will join Astra’s board of directors in connection with the business combination.
“I am excited to support Chris and his talented team as Astra begins the next chapter as a public company,” McCaw said.
Kemp praised McCaw and Lehman as “seasoned leaders who bring immense collective experience in public technology company operations that will be beneficial to Astra and its shareholders.”
Holicity’s price ended Wednesday’s trading session at $12.35 a share. Astra’s share price was $12.30 at the start of today’s trading session, and $12.90 at closing.
Last December, Astra launched a test rocket into space for the first time from Alaska’s Pacific Spaceport Complex, narrowly missing orbital velocity. The five-year-old company says it has more than 50 launches under contract and plans to begin delivering payloads to low Earth orbit this summer. Its business plan foresees going to daily launches by 2025.
McCaw, meanwhile, has other ventures in mind: Soon after the Astra-Holicity 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.
This report was first published at 5:43 p.m. June 30 and updated with the start of public trading.
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