S3 Postpones Zero G Flights, IPO Amid Financial Trouble

SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)
SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)

Swiss Space Systems (S3) announced on Friday that it had postponed plans to offer zero gravity flights and launch an initial public offering (IPO) amid reports that the company is experiencing serious financial difficulties that include missed paychecks for salaried employees.

“Technical and contractual delays in the calendar of the young Swiss startup have resulted in the postponement of the ZeroG flight campaign,” S3 said in a press release. “They were last scheduled to begin at end of 2015….

“The IPO of Swiss Space Sytems will be pursued, as well as the option offered to certain customers to convert their ZeroG tickets into company shares. However, the IPO will be postponed to ensure the best possible valuation of S3 when it enters the stock market,” the company said.

The press release gave no schedule for either the start of microgravity flights or the IPO. Sources who insisted upon anonymity said both efforts had been postponed indefinitely.

Sources also said S3 has faced mounting financial difficulties throughout 2015, including rising debts and an inability to meet payroll. The problems began early in the year with a paycheck that came late. Regular paychecks were then suspended, with some employees receiving partial payments well below their salaried amounts on an intermittent basis when S3 was paid for contracted work it performed.

S3 is developing an reusable shuttle vehicle capable of launching satellites weighing up to 250 kg. The shuttle would be air launched from atop a converted Airbus A300 airliner.  The company plans to use the same aircraft to provide micro-gravity parabolic flights for passengers and researchers.

The company is based in Switzerland with partners and operations in other nations, including the United States. Officials with the American operation refused to comment on the report.

News of S3’s financial problems first came on Dec. 11 through a Tweet from Spaceport Australia (http://twitter.com/SpaceportAus).  The Twitter account soon removed the post and apologized, saying it had received inaccurate information about S3’s financial situation.

On Dec. 14, S3 Community Manager Claudia Jaussi sent the following message to Parabolic Arc denying the claims:

It has come to my attention – through the S3 monitoring process of the social network and news – that you have re-posted on the 11th December 2015 a false statement, regarding the financial situation of S3 and its employees, shared initially on twitter by SPAU on the same day.​

On behalf of S3, I would kindly like to ask you to remove that post, the content of which is entirely not true. SPAU has already affirmed today in a new post – see attached – on twitter the inaccuracy of that piece of information and has retracted its statement. Based on the latter we would really appreciate it if you would proceed with removing that post  from your social media accounts -facebook, twitter or other-.

Parabolic Arc refused the request after receiving assurances that the original report was accurate. “I do know that the original post was pretty much spot on, despite what Claudia says,” a source said.

S3’s press release announcing the delays in micro-gravity flights and the IPO is below.

Swiss Space Systems (S3) announces the postponement of its ZeroG campaign and of its IPO

Technical and contractual delays in the calendar of the young Swiss startup have resulted in the postponement of the ZeroG flight campaign. They were last scheduled to begin at end of 2015.

Swiss Space Systems maintains its initial strategic direction, including the assurance that its customers around the world will benefit of a robust legal framework completely compliant with the commercial aviation regulation. The implementation of commercial and scientific parabolic flights through a certification as an airline is a world premiere. It requires long and detailed work with the respective airworthiness authorities.

The IPO of Swiss Space Sytems will be pursued, as well as the option offered to certain customers to convert their ZeroG tickets into company shares. However, the IPO will be postponed to ensure the best possible valuation of S3 when it enters the stock market.

S3 has been able to rely on strong industrial partners and suppliers who were able to support its pioneering projects, contributing to the development of the company, both nationally and internationally since its inception. The continuity of these relationships and public confidence in the company strengthen its willingness to make every effort towards the success of these objectives.

The company acknowledges that calendar changes may exercise the patience of its ZeroG passengers. Swiss Space Systems would like to thank all of them for their confidence. They will soon receive a direct information letter with further updates on the program.

Swiss Space Systems continues to work with firm determination in order to achieve its objective as soon as possible: To provide affordable access to its ZeroG flights to the public at large, in Switzerland and abroad.

About Swiss Space Systems

Swiss Space Systems Holding SA is a Swiss company established in 2012 in Payerne, which groups and supervises the activities of its companies in Switzerland, Spain, Croatia and the USA. The objective of the S3 group is to develop, build, certify, and operate suborbital shuttles for the deployment of satellites up to 250 kg, with a global budget up to the first satellite launch of around 250 million Swiss francs. www.s-3.ch