WASHINGTON — Two startups that went public through SPAC mergers say they are pressing ahead with plans despite warnings that they are running perilously low on cash.
In recent regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, launch vehicle and satellite propulsion developer Astra and in-space transportation company Momentus both included “going concern” warnings. Those warnings state that, based on available cash and the rate at which the companies are spending it, there is “substantial doubt” each company can remain operating for the next year.
Momentus, in its first quarter financial results released May 11, reported a net loss of $20.8 million and revenue of just $22,000. The company had cash and equivalents of $39 million on hand as of the end of the quarter.
In an earnings call, company executives acknowledged the going concern warning but played it down. “Momentus has already taken proactive steps to extend our cash runway and in addition have evaluated our strategic business plan to identify the best course of action in clearing this going concern analysis,” said Eric Williams, chief financial officer.
He notes the company was taking steps to both increase revenues through new business as well as reducing expenses. “We expect this plan will improve our liquidity and strengthen our balance sheet to allow the company to operate well into 2024,” he said. “In addition, we continue to explore and evaluate opportunities to raise additional funds and further strengthen our balance sheet.”
He did not elaborate on those efforts to raise additional funding, which could be through additional stock sales or debt. The company’s shares closed down nearly 10% May 15 at 34.45 cents.
Despite the going concern warning, the company emphasized it was proceeding with a series of missions of its Vigoride tug. Vigoride-5, which demonstrated it could raise its orbit slightly with its propulsion system, also recently deployed its single satellite payload, a cubesat for Singapore-based Qosmosys, and is now operating a space solar power hosted payload for Caltech.
John Rood, chief executive of Momentus, said the Vigoride-6 tug launched in April will also release four commercial satellites onboard “in the coming days” before changing its orbit for the deployment of two NASA cubesats scheduled in July.
Momentus plans to fly its next tug on SpaceX’s Transporter-9 mission launching in October. It also has reservations on the Transporter-10, -11 and -12 missions in 2024, the last of which came from a contract the company announced May 12. That covers missions through October 2024, the company said.
Rood said he is optimistic the company will find more customers for those later missions, and is making changes to allow for the inclusion of “sensitive and classified” U.S. government payloads on Vigoride missions in 2024. “We think these government customers can ultimately grow to represent a major portion of our business and as we increase in scale, we anticipate this will help unlock additional operating leverage and stability in our revenue,” he said.
Astra released its first quarter financial results May 15, reporting a net loss of $44.9 million and no revenue. The company ended the quarter with $62.7 million in cash and equivalents.
Astra executives, like the Momentus counterparts, emphasized they were taking steps to reduce cash burn rates while looking for additional funding. “The unique thing about this business is that it has several levers that we think help us continue to improve our cash runway,” said Axel Martinez, chief financial officer of Astra, in the company’s earnings call.
The company reported no revenue in the quarter because it is continuing to develop its new Rocket 4 launch vehicle and did not deliver any of its Astra Spacecraft Engine electric thrusters in the quarter. The company was focused in the first quarter on setting up a new high-volume production line for those thrusters in a separate facility in Sunnyvale, California, which opened in late March.
Martinez said he expected the company to start delivering thrusters late in the quarter, but warned those deliveries could slip into the third quarter. “We do not expect to recognize significant revenue from spacecraft engines delivered in Q2.”
The company, for the first time, forecasted cash remaining in guidance for the second quarter, projecting ending the quarter with $30 million to $33 million on hand. That assumes no financing activities that could raise funding for the company, Martinez noted. He said the company had received “various indications of interest” regarding both debt and equity financing and is considering several options, but did not disclose a schedule for those efforts.
Asked by an analyst if the company would consider abandoning its launch business to “triage” remaining capital by focusing on satellite propulsion, Chief Executive Chris Kemp was adamant that Astra would continue both launch vehicle and spacecraft thruster work. “We believe in both of these businesses,” he said.
Shares in Astra closed up 6% May 15 at 38.9 cents, but fell slightly in after-market trading when the company released its financial results.
Both Astra and Momentus went public in 2021 through mergers with special purpose acquisition companies. Other companies that went public through that route have also suffered financial problems because of high cash burn rates, compounded in many cases by SPAC deals that raised less money than anticipated. Those companies include Virgin Orbit, which was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April when it ran out of cash and could not raise additional funding.