XCOR Lays off Remaining Employees

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR)

Struggling XCOR Aerospace has laid off its remaining employees in Mojave, Calif. and Midland, Texas.

“Due to adverse financial conditions XCOR had to terminate all employees as of 30 June 2017,” the company said in a statement. “XCOR management will retain critical employees on a contract basis to maintain the company’s intellectual property and is actively seeking other options that would allow it to resume full employment and activity.”

The move follows the news last month that CEO Jay Gibson was leaving the company after President Donald Trump nominated him for a high-level position at the Department of Defense. Gibson left the company at the end of June.

XCOR hired Gibson in March 2015 to replace founder Jeff Greason. The objective was for Gibson to focus on the business side while Greason focused on completing construction on the two-seat Lynx suborbital space plane.

That arrangement did not work out. By November, Greason and two other founders, Dan DeLong and Aleta Jackson, had left the company to found Agile Aerospace.

Greason, DeLong, Jackson and Doug Jones founded the company in 1999 after being laid off from Rotary Rocket.

In May 2016, XCOR laid off about 25 employees — roughly half of its workforce — and suspended work on the Lynx. The company has since refocused its energies on its rocket engine work.

XCOR had been working on an upper stage for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan launch vehicle.

Save

Save

Save

  • patb2009
  • Whenever I see an engine company want to become an airframer (XCOR) or an airframer want to become an engine company (VG) I get nervous. There’s a reason Rocketdyne/Aerojet were separate from Lockheed/Boeing/NG/etc. By the same token, there’s a reason why SpaceX started with an existing engine (Fastrac) when they decided to do both.

  • MzUnGu

    “24 hour turn” only works if can build a satellite every 24 hrs, not every 24 months.

  • MzUnGu

    Prob kept them on on the advice of the lawyers to satisfy some terms on the contract with those Midland folks.

  • MzUnGu

    There will be no Vulcan….soon….my guess.

  • JamesG

    No doubt.

  • patb2009

    There is a difference between Tinkering and Analytical engineering.

  • duheagle

    When an engine company is forced to become an airframer or an airframer is forced to become an engine maker, you perhaps have a point. These are not things one can be half-hearted about.

    The reason engine makers are separate corporate entities from airframe makers is because that pattern was established early on in the aircraft industry and that’s the milieu from which all legacy aerospace majors are drawn. Simply put, it’s a habit. There’s no natural law at work that requires such an arrangement.

    Elon Musk, after having been dissed by both the Russian and U.S. space establishments early on, decided his path forward had to include as close to zero dependence on “the usual suspects” as possible. That meant radical self-sufficiency.

    Mr. Musk did not really start with FASTRAC, he started by recruiting the man who had designed FASTRAC, Tom Mueller. The early Merlins were a generation or more beyond FASTRAC because Mr. Mueller had continued work on his own after the various TRW projects were shelved. Several more Merlin generations have followed in quick succession. With Raptor well along, it seems SpaceX is now the regnant authority on high-performance LOX-hydrocarbon engine design and fabrication, having beaten American engine makers at their game and, now, Russian engine makers at theirs.

    In structures and other rocket fitments, SpaceX has been almost equally path-breaking, being the first to use friction-stir welding on a large scale and having developed its own best-in-class heat shield material, PICA-X from a NASA-originated prototype. As with Mueller anent engines, Musk took the inventor of PICA – Dan Rasky – on-board and gave him a fast horse to ride.

    In retrospect, it seems that XCOR, whose founders were engine-centric, underestimated what it was going to take to be an airframer as well. They neither subcontracted the whole job out nor, seemingly, found their own airframer equivalent of Tom Mueller or Dan Rasky. In the end, XCOR apparently couldn’t deliver on the engine side either.

  • duheagle

    There are something like 20,000 commo and other smallsats planned for launch over the next five years. Half of them are going to be SpaceX’s own birds launched on their own rockets. SpaceX will likely launch a good chunk of the half that aren’t its own too. Do the math, Dude.

  • duheagle

    Yep. And both approaches have chalked up both significant successes and abject failures. The optimum is somewhere on the continuum between these poles. Finding where that optimum is separates the greats from everyone else.

  • duheagle

    HE-177 was the Nazi B-29, but less successful. Both development programs were plagued by engine problems. Not sure it’s entirely fair to call it a bad idea.

    The Panzer VIII Maus was a bad idea. A very bad idea.

    The ME-163 was a Hail Mary pass that didn’t pay off. With more time for design refinement and more resources to build it, it might have been formidable. Fortunately for us, the Germans had neither.

  • duheagle

    A Cessna 172 is about 2,500 pounds with a full fuel load and is 27 feet long. A Tomahawk weighs about 1,000 pounds more and is 20 feet long. The first ever LearJet, the model 23, had a max gross takeoff weight upwards of six tons and was 43 feet long.

    One of these things is not like the others.

  • duheagle

    XCOR was, and is, not on Vulcan’s critical path.

  • duheagle

    That would only work if we were both awake and on the same comment thread at the same time. To be perfectly honest, I have no interest whatsoever in knowing what you look like. I have an equal lack of interest in wasting bandwidth spreading my own mug around the Web.

  • MzUnGu

    I actually got a few in my garage too…

  • MzUnGu

    I agree, just think that Vulcan will soon hit a dead end too, when the sat biz slow down some.

  • patb2009

    HE-177 was sized to do dive bombing, not high altitude bombing..
    Doctrine was driving a bad idea.

    The ME-163 was silly. Sure, rocket powered to shoot up to Altitude but it was gliding back. Escort fighters would chase it as soon as it ran out of gas and poke just one or two holes in it. Just enough to barbecue the pilots.

  • patb2009

    A LearJet Model 31 cruises at 515 MPH.

    A Tomahawk Cruises at 550 MPH

    A Cessna 172 cruises at 115 Kts.

    One of these things is not like the other..