From what I’m hearing, the layoffs are part of a retrenchment to focus on projects that are bringing in revenue, such as the upper stage engine XCOR is developing for ULA. It appears that many people working on the Lynx suborbital space plane were laid off.
The company’s burn rate — what it was spending every month — was just too high, especially as it is maintaining facilities in Mojave, Calif., and Midland, Texas. It’s also been a while since XCOR has made any announcements about new fundraising rounds.
Work on the Lynx — which has been under construction for about four years — is being suspended. The last update on its progress from XCOR, provided at the Space Access 2016 Conference in April, indicated that one wing had been built by the manufacturer and funds were required to construct the second wing.
Most of the rest of the vehicle has already been assembled. Work was continuing on closing the cycle on the vehicle’s engine as well. That work will continue along with development of the ULA engine.
The Lynx is a precursor to a fully reusable, multi-stage system that is intended to make human space travel a routine activity. The reusable engine that XCOR is developing for ULA is a step in that direction, but it’s only one piece of a much larger puzzle. Without the Lynx as a test bed, the project will be more difficult to undertake.
It is unlikely that much work on the orbital system was being done in recent months given the financial constraints and a lack of personnel to do it. In reorganizing the company last year, CEO Jay Gibson had designated founders Jeff Greason and Dan DeLong to focus on the orbital system.
That new management structure didn’t work out. Greason, DeLong and co-founder Aleta Jackson left XCOR in November. They subsequently established a consulting company focused on rapid prototyping.
That’s what I know so far. More updates as information becomes available.