Space stocks may not be in focus on Friday, as the Federal Reserve is busy dominating the headlines. However, they will likely be in focus over the weekend, and certainly on Aug. 29. Why? That’s the date on which a NASA moon mission will take place with its most powerful rocket yet.
More specifically, NASA plans “for a critical, long-overdue test flight, sending an unpiloted Orion crew capsule on a 42-day voyage around the moon.” The launch is planned for Monday, Aug. 29 at Kennedy Space Center at roughly 8:30 a.m. Eastern. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, the launch may be delayed to either Sept. 2 or Sept. 5.
The goal? To orbit the moon and safely return back to earth. According to CBS News,
“The primary goal of the Artemis 1 mission is to send Orion to orbit around the moon and in the process, set up a 25,000-mph plunge back into Earth’s atmosphere on October 10. The top priority of the mission is to make sure the capsule’s 16.5-foot-wide heat shield can protect returning astronauts from the 5,000-degree inferno of re-entry on a future flight.”
If successful, the orbit around the moon would be “farther than any spacecraft built for humans has ever gone.”
The Impact on Space Stocks
This is a big deal for the space community, but how does it impact space stocks?
We’re in the midst of a difficult bear market, in which high-growth and speculative stocks have been crushed. To that effect, stocks like Virgin Galactic (NYSE:SPCE), Astra Space (NASDAQ:ASTR) and Momentus (NASDAQ:MNTS) have all been crushed. These stocks are down by at least 77% from their one-year high.
The one exception is AST SpaceMobile (NASDAQ:ASTS), which is down just 15% from its one-year high, although it’s still down 53% from its all-time high in 2021. Why is this name holding up better than the others? It’s mostly due to the stock more than doubling amid a four-week surge that ended earlier this month.
In any regard, a catalyst like the Orion launch is meaningful for space stocks. NASA is looking at more space and moon missions. As space travel becomes more common, these companies have an opportunity to capitalize. Given the recent focus on space — whether via NASA, SpaceX or Virgin Galactic — there’s reason for optimism.
However, there’s also reason for concern. Operating in space is not cheap or easy. While the economy is still holding up, spending may come in as worries continue to grow. That may make it hard for these companies. Even if business continues to hum along, space stocks may continue to struggle.
On the date of publication, Bret Kenwell did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.