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.

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  • Doug Weathers

    If only that were true. The jobs on offer mostly require prior experience in the oil industry. The ones that don’t are entry-level.

  • Doug Weathers

    My analysis is that he’s a troll.

  • Doug Weathers

    Go read the Wikipedia article. Here’s the link for you.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotary_Rocket

    If you want to talk smack about the technology, have the class to read up on it first.

  • windbourne

    Last sentence says it all. U have to have a constant stream of money to make these work. Sadly, it is a lesson that politicians and MBAs never really think about. A politician is generally about simply bringing home the bacon, OR making a big thing happen.
    For us to go to Mars, we NEED to get a small lunar base going and then have it funded by multiple nations using the service. Putting a base on the moon will not get us to Mars, but building the launch infrastructure for the lunar base WILL make it possible.

    Congress needs to focus on adding 2 habitats to the ISS and NASA-vetting them. From there, if NASA /Congress says we are going to put a base on.the moon, then multiple nations will use private launch/habitat service to get there.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The term Alt-Space predates Alt-Right by nearly two decades. It was a term used to refer to firms that were not looking to NASA funding or support to reach space. Instead they were seeking an alternative to NASA to move forward in space. In the early 2000’s Rick Tumlinson invented the term “New Space” to rebrand the lagging Space Frontier Foundation Conferences. Since many of the Alt-Space firms had started taking NASA money then and had started the process of being assimilated as new NASA Contractors the term New Space started to replace the term Alt-Space as a new way of doing business with NASA.

    But actually, for a firm like XCOR that has mostly steered clear of NASA funding, the term Alt-Space is accurate, proper, and not “evil”.

    The term Alt-Right was only invented during the 2008 Presidential Campaign as part of the identity politics strategy used. It has since achieved its current status which I think you are referring to. However there is also the term Alt-Left that refers to those who are extreme liberals. But its unlikely in the current media bubbles that folks live in for those using the term Alt-Right to see it. But if you google Alt-Left you will find it.

  • patb2009

    VG knows better

  • patb2009

    It’s good to cut metal but it’s important to do the engineering first.

  • patb2009

    “The concept of the tiprocket helicopter for a first stage in some size ranges makes theoretical sense.”

    Only if you are unfamiliar with pump theory.

  • patb2009

    Bad hub to tip ratio, poor solidity factors,
    Impossible scaling.

  • patb2009

    not every german idea was good. Wether it was invading Russia,
    Killing jews and chasing jewish scientists out of Germany,
    or that FW Rocket rotary wing aircraft with tip rockets,

  • HyperJ

    I think most of us understand that. But we also understand that this statement you quoted is an attempt to put a positive spin on things. Will the IP be sold off? (“seeking other options”) – Certainly. Will XCOR be revived with all the employees rehired? – Not in a thousand years.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No, it faded out when many of the Alt-Space firms started being assimilated as New Space Contractors for NASA.

  • redneck

    You and I were arguing the point in LA 15 years ago and usenet before that. Nothing’s changed on your side at least.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Their best bet might be to go to Fort Worth since Lockheed is expanding its F-35 production line.

  • JamesG

    Only because they’ve already spent a boat load of money getting someone to build a propulsion system for them. VG buying XCOR’s engine even before the companies demise would have been a great “synergy”, much more so now (without the downside of funding a future competitor), IF they were still in the market. Bad timing is so common in this business…

  • ThomasLMatula

    It looks like the folks in Midland are going to be talking to them about broken promises.

    http://www.mrt.com/news/article/Report-XCOR-to-lay-off-remaining-employees-11268776.php

    Report: XCOR to lay off remaining employees

    “It is a disappointment to learn about these layoffs that are being made by XCOR,” Brent Hilliard, chairman of the Midland Development Corp. board, said Wednesday. “The Midland Development Corp. has a meeting scheduled with XCOR at 1:30 p.m. (today) where these matters — along with other potential concerns that may arise out of the decision to lay off its employees — will be addressed.”

    One matter likely to be addressed will be the economic development deal. In 2012, the city and XCOR agreed to a deal that moved XCOR’s corporate headquarters from California to Midland. The incentive package provided $2 million to the company for creating its headquarters in the Tall City, $3 million toward lease payments and capital improvements at an existing hangar and $5 million in performance incentives. The company, in turn, agreed to create an eventual payroll of $12 million in Midland and to invest at least $4 million in an existing hangar, according to a 2012 Reporter-Telegram article.”

    I expect if the history of XCOR is written the decision to move to Midland while they were in the middle of building the Lynx will be seen as the start of their decline as a firm. Hopefully someone with deep pockets will pull them out.

  • savuporo

    There are other more capable space companies looking for the select few hires. I wonder where most of Firefly people ended up at ?

  • savuporo

    Up and down straight rockets have failed many times too. Firefly, Armadillo, Beal are all different folded groups/teams for all different reasons. Some of them can blame not having enough money which is the default go to for all the new space apologists .. but clearly not all.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The French made good use of it to build the Sud-Ouest Djinn.

  • patb2009

    XCOR was making nothing in VG’s class, their technology didn’t scale
    and the secrecy made me doubt any of it’s utility.

  • patb2009

    Nothing has changed in Pump Physics.

    There are reasons small aircraft still use reciprocating engines and propellers and there are reasons big birds use TurboFans.

  • HyperJ

    Texas – Where aerospace companies move from CA to die? Firefly and now XCOR.

    I’m only semi-serious, obviously it was not the primary reason, but perhaps it was a contributing factor? Perhaps the grass wasn’t as green as it looked?

  • Jacob Samorodin

    So you are saying, winged spacecraft are SAFER????…If I were a space-tourist, I would prefer a hard landing on terra firma by parachute while I was inside a capsule. I only know of one lethal parachute-capsule failure in 56 years: Soyuz 1.
    At least a capsule can have escape solids attached either to the sides of the capsule, on top, or beneath if you have to get away from a failing booster.

  • Doug Weathers

    Solidity factor is important for axial impellers, yes? The Roton rotor is axial w/r/t air but not to the propellant, which flows at right angles to the rotation axis.

    It can’t be THAT bad, since Roton blades are like those on all flying rotorcraft. If solidity factor mattered to helicopters, wouldn’t they look different than they do?

    I don’t follow about the hub to tip ratio. For non-axial impellers, what does hub to tip ratio tell you?

    Scaling was apparently a problem, according to the Wikipedia article. When RR had to scale up the size of their vehicle after the small comsat market collapsed, they gave up on the rotor blades.

    Are you Pat Bahn?

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Would you prefer to meet me face-to-face? Or perhaps on Skype?

  • patb2009

    chutes are nice, but operationally expensive. When it’s just a person and you can carry the chute off and one person can repack it, it’s not so bad.
    on a human carrying capsule, the chutes get big. you want 3 for redundancy, and those are getting dragged across the desert.

    That’s lots of inspection, collection, repacking…

    That also means you want to have off road recovery of the capsule. Big trucks with big off road gear. That also gets pricey…

    There are reasons aircraft like to land at airfields…

  • patb2009

    The question being raised is of Relative Value and market demand.
    Someday we will have the hourly flight to orbital space stations, but
    right now we have a market with monthly flights. Being able to jump up to Weekly flights would be a huge deal.

    We will know what looks more reasonable once the weekly flights turn into reality and we have new customers banging away for daily flights and people sketching up missions that need hourly flights.

    It will happen but, how we get there is challenging and it will never be something like the Roton.

  • savuporo

    No, what I’m saying is even a sane/simple technical approach does not take you to space. As with everything else, right combination of investment, talent, team, market opportunity are all important.

    I think what has been thoroughly demonstrated here is that the idea of small teams on shoestring budgets bootstrapping their way to space through perseverance, ingenuity and hard work is somewhat delusional

  • Jacob Samorodin

    I never met Jeff Greason, but his original dream was compelling: he desiring to fly above 99 percent of the atmosphere. Nothing wrong with that. The problem emerged was that he and the XCor team bit off more than they can chew. As others have stated here, winged spaceplanes have with few exceptions only brought grief.
    Why did Jeff think he could avoid the pitfalls of developing a successful spaceplane where others failed, or set up circumstances that were lethal during development or flight?
    I’m glad the Jeff and the XCor team didn’t get to the point of killing anybody, like another company did, but it only takes one flaw and one error in planning, development and testing to create an unforgiving and perilous circumstance. Human beings, no matter how intelligent or sufficient in education and degrees
    still manage to OVERLOOK something or make MISTAKES that slip by their best intentions.
    So tell me: do you think if Jeff had succeeded in completing and sending up the Lynx that if the SHTF, the pilot and passenger would have time to eject, or make a survivable, emergency dead-stick landing?
    Do you think you could have hypothetically succeeded if you had and used the limited resources that XCor had?
    And did I CONDEMN or did I SCOLD Jeff and his team? I certainly DID NOT condemn him.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    One definition of a troll is a faceless entity. Hmmmm?
    American or Canadian trolls? You can have it. I would love to see Skype used on these comment pages.

  • patb2009

    1) Do segregate the difference between the Air blades that they were using for landing and the spinning “Rotary Disk Engine” that they were using for launch.

    in the RDE, the solidity factor mattered a lot because it constrained how much you could push through the hub to the tip … It matters a lot for scaling… in an conventional axial flow turbine you can scale up by making the engine wider or longer. In a radial flow turbine, you can’t. Scaling for pressure hurts volumetric flow. it’s why jet engines opted for axial flow.

    you can do radial flow but it’s a kind of limited sweet spot.
    some car turbo boosters and some water pumps do that but
    it’s hard to scale those.

    The problem the RDE had was you want to flow a lot of mass out the tips,
    and at pretty high pressure.That meant you needed either short hub-tip ratio for mass flow or you want long hub-tip for high pressure but you can’t both.

    There were reasons why when external investors came in, they pushed to use a conventional rocket engine for the base propulsion.

    The same problem occurred when they were trying to use little tip rockets on helicopter blades.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    XCor, yes (you are correct), but the planned SSTO Roton, no! …Correct me if I am wrong, but wasn’t the Atlas C/D as close to a SSTO orbital system as engineers have ever achieved?

  • Aerospike

    While the comparison might be valid, it is an urban legend that Bill Gates ever said this.

    (I would paste a url of a 2008 computerworld article if my frakin phone would let me…)

  • JamesG

    At ten paces, keyboards at the ready?

    Stop being even more childish. Than usual.

  • JamesG

    Probably has more to do with the same suits they both had making important decisions…

  • se jones

    With this post, Snarky’s credibility is now ≤0

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Wholly smokes, I had creditability before that? Thanks for lifting my day!

  • IamGrimalkin

    Buy XCOR and make the engine themselves?

  • redneck

    Face-to-face.

  • Jimmy S. Overly

    Keep fighting the good fight, Doug. You’re a good cat and good cats land on their feet. 🙂

  • SteveW

    I think that the demise of XCOR was entirely predictable. The way I see it, it was not so much the high risk and cost of developing new technology that forecast their failure. No secret about that. It was the hubris. They sold tickets for flights that were originally promised as being imminent. I inquired and they were still selling tickets as recently as May, 2017. Did any of these ticket buyers get their money back? Unilever spent millions on a huge program giving away 22 flights on the spaceplane XCOR never built. How about the damage done to their brand? Slick sales pitches by former CEO Andrew Nelson failed to address the uncertainty and real lack of progress of XCOR’s technology. Midland, Texas and Camden County, Georgia have spent millions of taxpayer dollars because XCOR had a better hype machine than their flying machine turned out to be. Sooner or later, XCOR ran out of excuses and “other people’s money.”

  • duheagle

    All those ideas were bad, but they were also all Hitler’s ideas. I’m pretty sure Der Fuhrer didn’t come up with the idea of tip-rocket rotorcraft.

  • duheagle

    Cruise missiles are smaller than most small aircraft and they don’t use reciprocating engines, they use turbofans – little ones. The reason most small planes use reciprocating engines is the same reason they also use magneto ignition and carburetor induction – the FAA certification process for small General Aviation craft has been stuck in the 40’s since the 40’s.

    My late father was in charge of medium bomber maintenance at several air bases in North Africa, Sicily and Italy during WW2. I suspect the men he commanded, if they could be moved 75 years forward in history, would find current small General Aviation aircraft right in their wheelhouse.

  • patb2009

    The German Industry had all sorts of bad ideas.

    HE-177 and Panzer VIII come to mind…

    The ME 163 was a pretty bad idea.

  • patb2009

    The Tomahawk cruises at 550 MPH. That makes it like a very small Lear Jet, without landing gear then a cessna.

  • duheagle

    I’ve seen a few current want ads that have that “prior oil and gas experience” boilerplate in them even though the job descriptions are obviously entry-level. Say, for the sake of argument, that XCOR’s castoffs can’t find employment in Midland. Given that Midland’s population is at least 1/3 higher now than it was in 2010, it would seem that getting out from under a recently acquired lease or mortgage wouldn’t be much of a problem. There is definitely high-tech work to be had on the other side of the state. Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin are all booming.

  • duheagle

    Yes, I know. But a few years ago the machinist want ads also used to pretty routinely say “some felonies okay.”

  • ThomasLMatula

    Some more details on XCOR.

    http://www.newswest9.com/story/35827885/xcor-not-shutting-down-in-midland

    XCOR not shutting down in Midland

    “There were online reports that all employees were being let go by the company. However, we’re told three employees will remain in Midland and will be paid on a contract basis. 10 other Midland employees have been let go as well as 11 others in California.”

    and

    “Blum said the company is in touch with the several hundred customers who have already bought space tickets.

    We’re told there is no timetable on the completion of the Lynx Space project vehicle that would send people to space.”

  • JamesG

    You’re not going to do much with three employees besides keep the floors swept and answer phones.

  • publiusr

    Jeff Greason and I had very differennt views on things. But XCOR deserved better. I wish I had Bill Gates money–I’d give to XCOR, MASTEN–anyone trying different things.