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Investing in Space: A launch guide

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Ignition of the SLS rocket launching the Artemis I mission on Nov. 16, 2022.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

CNBC’s Investing in Space newsletter offers a view into the business of space exploration and privatization, delivered straight to your inbox. CNBC’s Michael Sheetz reports and curates the latest news, investor updates and exclusive interviews on the most important companies reaching new heights. Sign up to receive future editions.

Overview: A launch guide

Earlier this year, Astra set out to launch a mission with its now-discontinued Rocket 3.3 vehicle. With midday trading underway on stock exchanges, Astra’s stock plunged after the rocket triggered an abort shortly after igniting its engines. The launch was halted, and so was the stock.

While that rocket would launch three days later (and suffer a mid-flight failure for a separate reason), that February abort sent Astra’s stock down 13%. The trading activity, whether speculative, opportunistic or otherwise, demonstrates a key risk in attempting complex launches while public markets watch. 

 Space executives have often impressed upon me that investor education about their companies, and the industry as a whole, is crucial. And Deutsche Bank analyst Edison Yu previously told me that many investors “see this as still a very nascent industry,” with some stakeholders “not necessarily understanding some of the nuances.”

 With that in mind, here’s a brief, casual rundown of some key terms to know along the way:

  • Window: The times within which a launch needs to happen to reach its intended destination.
  • Stage: The sections of the rocket, typically identified as first or lower, second or upper, and so on.
  • Payload: The spacecraft or instrument being delivered to space.
  • Terminal count: When the rocket’s onboard computers take control of the countdown, typically in the last few minutes, to automatically make any hold or abort decisions.
  • Ignition: Lighting the engines.
  • Hold: A pause in the countdown.
  • Scrub: Postponing a countdown and no longer attempting to launch at the previously set time.
  • Abort: Ending a launch after ignition, whether still on the ground or in flight. (An abort is not a scrub, but can cause a scrub!)
  • Anomaly: A problem or unexpected situation, with either the hardware or software of the rocket.

If you want to dive in deeper on some of these terms, or have others you’d like to look up, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell has a helpful glossary that you can CTRL+F search.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

What’s up

Industry maneuvers

On the horizon

  • Nov. 30 – Credit Suisse global industrials conference, with space companies attending, including BlackSky. 


Ignition of the SLS rocket launching the Artemis I mission on Nov. 16, 2022.

Bill Ingalls / NASA

CNBC’s Investing in Space newsletter offers a view into the business of space exploration and privatization, delivered straight to your inbox. CNBC’s Michael Sheetz reports and curates the latest news, investor updates and exclusive interviews on the most important companies reaching new heights. Sign up to receive future editions.

Overview: A launch guide

Earlier this year, Astra set out to launch a mission with its now-discontinued Rocket 3.3 vehicle. With midday trading underway on stock exchanges, Astra’s stock plunged after the rocket triggered an abort shortly after igniting its engines. The launch was halted, and so was the stock.

While that rocket would launch three days later (and suffer a mid-flight failure for a separate reason), that February abort sent Astra’s stock down 13%. The trading activity, whether speculative, opportunistic or otherwise, demonstrates a key risk in attempting complex launches while public markets watch. 

 Space executives have often impressed upon me that investor education about their companies, and the industry as a whole, is crucial. And Deutsche Bank analyst Edison Yu previously told me that many investors “see this as still a very nascent industry,” with some stakeholders “not necessarily understanding some of the nuances.”

 With that in mind, here’s a brief, casual rundown of some key terms to know along the way:

  • Window: The times within which a launch needs to happen to reach its intended destination.
  • Stage: The sections of the rocket, typically identified as first or lower, second or upper, and so on.
  • Payload: The spacecraft or instrument being delivered to space.
  • Terminal count: When the rocket’s onboard computers take control of the countdown, typically in the last few minutes, to automatically make any hold or abort decisions.
  • Ignition: Lighting the engines.
  • Hold: A pause in the countdown.
  • Scrub: Postponing a countdown and no longer attempting to launch at the previously set time.
  • Abort: Ending a launch after ignition, whether still on the ground or in flight. (An abort is not a scrub, but can cause a scrub!)
  • Anomaly: A problem or unexpected situation, with either the hardware or software of the rocket.

If you want to dive in deeper on some of these terms, or have others you’d like to look up, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell has a helpful glossary that you can CTRL+F search.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

What’s up

Industry maneuvers

On the horizon

  • Nov. 30 – Credit Suisse global industrials conference, with space companies attending, including BlackSky. 

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