Astra chief engineer resigns in another blow for beleaguered rocket builder

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Benjamin Lyon, chief engineer and executive vice president of engineering and operations
Astra

Beleaguered rocket-builder Astra is losing its highly touted chief engineer, Benjamin Lyon, the company said in a securities filing Friday.

Lyon resigned from his role as Astra’s chief engineer and executive vice president of operations and engineering on Monday, the company said. The company said he is leaving to pursue another opportunity and that his last day is expected to be Dec. 27.

In a statement, Astra CEO Chris Kemp thanked Lyon “for his service and contributions.”

“We are grateful to Benjamin for his stewardship in taking Astra to orbit, and helping build a world-class engineering and operations organization,” Kemp said.

Shares of Astra were little changed in pre-market trading, from its previous close of 52 cents a share.

After disclosing Lyon’s departure, Astra announced a quartet of promotions to its management team. The four new Astra program leads: Giovanni Greco on Launch System Delivery, Jonathan Donaldson on Spacecraft Engine Delivery, Doug Kunzman on Launch and Test Operations, and Bryson Gentile on Manufacturing.

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Lyon joined Astra in February 2021 from Apple, where he had worked in development for products including the iPhone and Mac.

But Astra is facing an uphill battle after the company pivoted away from its Rocket 3.3 vehicle after a mid-flight failure, and decided to pause launches to build a larger, upgraded rocket. The company announced a layoff of 16% of its workforce on Nov. 11, as it works to trim operating expenses as it moves forward with development work.

In October, Astra vice president of communications Kati Dahm left the company, and last month Chief Financial Officer Kelyn Brannon transitioned out of her role, with the company bringing in Axel Martinez as CFO from Virgin Hyperloop One.

Astra stock is down 92% this year as of Thursday’s close. The company received a de-listing warning from the Nasdaq in October after its stock fell below $1 a share. The company has until April to lift the stock price back above the level.

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