As Astra brings on talent, we’ll profile new and veteran members of the Astra team and community as we work toward our mission of improving life on Earth from space. First up, Benjamin Lyon.
Benjamin recently joined us as Chief Engineer to help lead our next phase of expansion, preparing to deliver commercial payloads this summer and start monthly launches later this year.
As Astra’s Chief Engineer, Benjamin is taking his expertise in making complex technologies elegant, accessible, and reliable to the ultimate frontier: space. He will lead our engineering, manufacturing and launch, and test operations in order to catalyze the space economy.
What will you focus on first at Astra?
Our engineering, test, and operations teams are developing a complementary and integrated system of rockets and satellites, to allow us to offer customers a complete, coordinated and super-efficient solution to accessing space. We will scale production so that by 2025 we can offer daily launches.
We also plan to dramatically expand the number of launch sites. Astra has developed a mass-produced portable launch system that packs into just four shipping containers to deploy the entire system anywhere around the world, launch rockets anywhere on Earth, and put payloads anywhere into space. This is unprecedented and will allow Astra to rapidly scale and operate a global footprint of spaceports.
How did your background at Apple prepare you for Astra?
Apple has mastered the discipline of designing products, together with the manufacturing and operational processes that realize them at tremendous scale and amazing quality. Incredibly complex technologies are integrated into complete products and make them easy and fun to use. You don’t have to be an engineer or even read a manual to operate your iPhone, for example.
In a similar vein, Astra is focused on making advanced technology accessible and simple to use. By optimizing specifically for the small satellite and mega constellation market, Astra can dramatically reduce manufacturing cost and logistic complexity while providing a standard data and power platform for customers to build on. Customers will be able to add a peripheral to one of our satellites that’s unique to their application – a camera, sensor, or radio, for example – and we will launch it into orbit. This will allow our customers to tap into their creativity and the potential of space. Our goal is to open up an ecosystem to advance many different elements of our life here on Earth.
Astra has an incredible foundation of deep talent that ranges across manufacturing, operations, engineering, business and sales. I’m looking forward to being part of Astra’s diverse team and operating with a united vision to succeed together. That’s what we really mean when we say “Ad Astra”.
What kind of benefits will Astra bring to the planet?
The company’s core vision is to dramatically simplify access to space so customers can better focus their creativity on solving specific problems like next-generation connectivity and on-demand Earth observation.
The constellations we launch will operate in low Earth orbit, allowing them to seamlessly transmit data and take higher resolution images, creating opportunities to expand connectivity and our understanding of the planet, such as how we manage scare resources and measure the effects of climate change. The constellations will be able to connect billions of devices from cars to ships, to bring about incredible efficiencies.
What are your goals for 2021?
We’re building off the success of our December 2020 launch, where we became the fastest privately-funded company in history to achieve orbital launch capability. Astra engineers have been studying data of the launch to identify opportunities to further enhance rocket performance.
That’s in line with our strategy to collect and analyze data about every aspect of our business, which allows us to focus on improving the efficiency, productivity and cost structure of our space operations.
We plan to launch again later this summer — this time with a commercial payload. After that, we’ll ramp up our commercial launches, with the aim of monthly launches by the end of the year. This is a truly worthy challenge for our manufacturing, test, and launch teams. I’m very excited for the value this capability of short times to launch will bring to our customers.
If you’re interested in being a part of Benjamin’s team, we’re hiring.