Canoo Astrovan
NASA selected Canoo in March to provide electric vans that will transport astronauts to the launch pad for Artemis missions. Credit: Canoo

WASHINGTON — The electric vehicle company that recently won a NASA contract to provide a modern version of the “Astrovan” to transport Artemis astronauts to the launch pad warned May 10 it may soon run out of money.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission May 10, Canoo Technologies issued what is known as a “going concern” warning because of continued losses. The company reported a net loss of $125.4 million in the first quarter and had $104.9 million of cash available at the end of the quarter.

“We believe substantial doubt exists about the Company’s ability to continue as a going concern for twelve months from the date of issuance of our financial statements,” Canoo stated in the filing.

NASA selected Canoo in March for the agency’s Artemis Crew Transportation Vehicles contract to provide electric vehicles that will be used to transport astronauts from the building at the Kennedy Space Center where they suit up for their missions to Launch Complex 39B. The vehicles are intended to replace the Airstream motor home called the “Astrovan” that had been used to transport NASA astronauts for most of the shuttle program. NASA required the use of zero-emissions vehicles for the contract, citing an August 2021 executive order promoting the use of such vehicles.

Described by NASA in an April 13 statement as “futuristic transports with pod-shaped exteriors,” the vehicles are effectively electric vans capable of holding eight people, including four astronauts in spacesuits. Under the contract, Canoo will deliver three of those vehicles to NASA by June 2023. The NASA announcement did not disclose the contract value, but a procurement notice dated March 31 said the contract was worth $147,855.

Canoo had delivered very few vehicles to date. The company said in its earnings announcement that it has built just 39 of its Gamma vehicles, upon which the NASA vehicles are based. The company says it will start full-scale production of its vehicles late this year, contingent on raising funding needed to remain in operation.

In a May 10 earnings call, Canoo executives acknowledged the going concern warning but said they were working to raise up to $600 million in new funding. Of that, $50 million would come from an investment by an existing shareholder, Aquila Family Ventures, while $250 million would come from a share purchase agreement with Yorkville Advisors, a hedge fund. Canoo also filed a registration statement to sell up to $300 million in stock.

Tony Aquila, chief executive of Canoo, said on the call that he expected the $50 million investment to close this week. The agreement with Yorkville would be done ready in a “couple weeks,” he added.

He acknowledged, though, difficulties raising money in general. “It is a different market today, one with challenging conditions,” he said. “We will raise appropriate amounts to satisfy what we need, bridge to milestones, and be in a position to take advantage of our track record, our value creation and potentially improving market conditions.”

Aquila mentioned the NASA award in the earnings call, playing up the publicity that the deal could provide for the company. “We anticipate billions of impressions associated with the Artemis program,” he said.

However, he declined to go into specifics about the NASA contract. “The contents of that would be confidential, and really a NASA discussion,” he said. “But it’s a very exciting program.”

The two companies providing commercial crew services for NASA have taken different approaches for transporting astronauts to the launch pad. SpaceX uses Tesla Model X electric cars for taking astronauts on the pad for Crew Dragon missions. Boeing worked with Airstream to develop what it called “Astrovan II” that will be used by astronauts flying on future CST-100 Starliner vehicles.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...