SpaceX to Lay Off 10 Percent of Employees

Elon Musk (Credit: SpaceX)

The Los Angeles Times reports that SpaceX will lay off 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 employees in an effort to become leaner.

“To continue delivering for our customers and to succeed in developing interplanetary spacecraft and a global space-based internet, SpaceX must become a leaner company,” the Hawthorne-based company said in a statement. “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

Even with SpaceX’s ramp-up of satellite launches — 21 in 2018, up from 18 the year before, and on Friday the first one of this year — it has occasionally cut its workforce. Last summer, the company fired some senior managers at the company’s Redmond, Wash., office because of disagreements over the pacing of the development and testing of its Starlink satellite program.

SpaceX makes most of its money from commercial and national security satellite launches, as well as two NASA contracts, one a multibillion-dollar deal to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and the other up to $2.6 billion to develop a capsule that will deliver astronauts to the space station. The first launch of that capsule, without a crew, is planned for February.

The Elon Musk-led company has even more ambitious — and expensive — plans. Musk has said SpaceX will conduct a “hopper test” of its Mars spaceship prototype as early as next month. The production version of that spaceship and its rocket system is expected to cost billions.

Earlier this month, privately held SpaceX said it raised about $273 million in equity and other securities in an offering that sought to raise about $500 million, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company is worth $31 billion, according to Equidate, which tracks private-company valuations.

  • Robert G. Oler

    . “Either of these developments, even when attempted separately,
    have bankrupted other organizations. This means we must part ways with
    some talented and hardworking members of our team.”

    LOL

    thats babble. both projects together are going to cost about 10 billion total…if they cost a dime…and “parting ways” with 10 percent of ones workforce is not going to pay for that particularly when the workforce is engaged in developing one of the “cost center”

    what is more likely is that they have been losing money for sometime and well so far the cash spent in reusability/refurbishment…has not paid off

  • Jeff2Space

    Since SpaceX is private, you can’t possibly provide a cite to back up your assertion that “they have been losing money for sometime”. So I’ll reply to your baseless assertion with some anecdotal evidence.

    Besides, I’ve worked for a company that was profitable but still went through a round of layoffs to make the company more profitable (we were privately held at the time, just like SpaceX). Sounds sick, but that’s the reality of working for a privately held company when the investors want to eventually make their money back.

  • ThomasLMatula

    No, firms that are able to stay profitable do so by constantly adjusting their workforce to their needs, which means doing just what SpaceX is doing. It does no good to their workforce to hang on to workers who no longer are needed and in doing so drive the entire enterprise into bankruptcy putting everyone out of a job.

    It should be noted that although they are laying off 600 there are jobs openings listed for over 400 workers who have skills SpaceX needs so this is more of a realignment rather than an actual downsizing.

    I suspect most of the layoffs are do with the shift of the Starship from composities to stainless steel. Also since commercial crew is about ready to fly there is likely a need for fewer workers in that area. And SpaceX is also accumulating an inventory of flight proven F9R Boosters reducing workforce needs in that area.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Whether they are making money off launches, or if their main income stream that puts them over the top comes from investors or loans, we don’t know. However keep this in mind. Boeing estimated a $6 billion development budget for the 787, and wound up paying five times that. That’s for jumping into an all composite airframe and wing. After having worked 40+ years with composites as subassemblies. Think of the unknowns presented by Starship and Super Heavy. The Falcons are going to have be very profitable in a very healthy launch environment to supply an ongoing stream of cash to support a development effort like the 787. You can argue that Space X is inherently superior to Boeing, and is not subject to the same ‘rules’ Boeing is and therefore cannot fall down the same rabbit hole they did. Okay. So a worthwhile exercise is to try to piece together the real development cost of Falcon and the development costs of the various versions that we’ve seen. Keeping in mind that Starship/Super Heavy will be more expensive than Falcon you then ask yourself if Space X’s current income stream can cover current costs and fund the development demand we see now?

  • Robert G. Oler

    so in your world all the employees who are being canned…cannot transfer to the openings that are available?

    do you really believe that? a person who helped build Dragon cannot for some reason move their talents to say BFS or whatever it is called?

    are you joking?

  • Robert G. Oler

    Since SpaceX is private, you can’t possibly provide a cite to back up
    your assertion that “they have been losing money for sometime”

    and by the same token and logic and metric you cannot refute that with anything but anecdotal evidence

    and then you site nothing

    OK let me help

    for 11 years I was a “Senior Experimental Test Aviator” with a major American aircraft company that develops cutting edge (not knock off) aerospace devices. I have flown test in initial flights in everything fromthe small twin to the big one.

    lets start off …how does SpaceX pay for the at leat 5 billion cost of whatever they are calling BFR/BFS?

    as VAder would say “i find your lack of realism disturbing” LOL

  • ThomasLMatula

    Depends on the skill set needed. If their job was working on parachutes or the flotation systems on Dragon then those skills won’t be needed for the Starship. If they job was keeping track of the NASA paperwork then those skills won’t be needed on the Starship. Also we are just hearing about those being laid-off. No one but SpaceX knows how many are being transferred to Starship from other positions. And then there is the switch from composites to stainless steel. I expect different skills are needed there as well.

    Tell me, if your airline was laying pilots off and hiring flight attendants would you expect them to make you a flight attendant?

  • Paul_Scutts

    I don’t know about the veracity of your last statement, Bob, I believe the jury is still out on the re-usability pay-off being (fully) realised. Still, I’d rather be in SpaceX’s position than ULA’s. Having sorted out the Falcon 9 problems and now upping their launch cadence, the company is becoming profitable. There was a very good reason why NASA defied the Congressional directive to aliocate all the CC funds to only one contractor (Boeing), because the vultures were starting to circle the Musk group at the time and after the CC awards all that non-financial viability talk “went away”. Personally, I think the ten percent existing workforce reduction is just a(nother) witch hunt in disguise (as it will make, IMO, very little difference to the overall level of funds available for future R&D expenses). Happy flying, Paul.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    My personal observation is that company I’ve worked for often requires re-interview to transfer back into new positions. So they are counted in layoff and kept in the system for additional 2 weeks to find new position. This doesn’t change the original layoff number. Also, my observations is companies handle the rehire prospects differently depending on the cycle.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    Your hate for Musk and SpaceX has warped your view of the reality around you. And no amount of appeal to authority is going to be worth a squirt of piss outside your domain of expertise (which launch vehicle dev is). By the way Boeing is doing such a great job handling the SLS tank production…

    https://spacenews.com/nasa-investigating-damaged-sls-tank-section/

    Let me break it down for you in small little chunks you you can handle it. It won’t take 5 billion dollars all at once to build this vehicle. In fact initial operational missions could happen for as little as 1-2 billion.

    For starters Raptor has been in development for over 7 years including injector configuration testing at Stennis 2013 and years of dev engine operations at McGregor. They are on the cusp of the first block of operational engines (that alone is about half the cost of a standard expendable launcher from a dev perspective per Tory Bruno) and it is largely in the rear-view mirror.

    Minimum viable product, is reusable launcher for satellite deployment, not a full Mars transportation system with human rating, that comes later. Being day one fully reusable craft is more upfront investment for sure, but pays lots of dividends on the back end of the development program. Bringing all the hardware back will allow them to speed through the analysis and margin testing of the system. By the time the Super Heavy flies the second stage will have many hops under it’s belt to understand the behavior of the system.

    This is where Starlink comes in. Starlink performs two crucial functions at different times. First Starlink provides a first operational aim-point for the Super Heavy Starship development as it is needed for the phase two deployment. This is a handy tool, an actual economic forcing function to move the development, rather than a settle Mars “dream”. In fact it is so critical to viable scale-out of the constellation, as such Starlink “funds” buying flights internally would be part of the development revenue for Super Heavy. Even better this is all internal so no amount of nervous customer can gum up the works. This provides both demand and schedule pressure for Starship initial operational capability. Once Starlink is functional the long term revenue stream among others can finish out the deep space ECLSS and other functions to make it a full Mars vehicle. Depending on how they go that may get done sooner, but the point is that isn’t actually required for minimum viable product.

    In summary SpaceX must use Starlink to bootstrap Super Heavy Starship. This is very tricky, not a sure thing at all but a completely viable approach given Musk’s past.

  • Robert G. Oler

    so 10 percent of their workforce had skill sets that were no longer needed

    LOL

    BTW the folks who keep track of NASA paperwork will be needed throughout the Dragon program

    the last sentence is just fan boy stuff…try a better example

  • Robert G. Oler

    if it is a witch hunt in disguis, a possibility I note then that is another disturbing thing

  • Robert G. Oler

    I see its hard news for the SpaceX fan boys to deal with 🙂 next to Trump fans the best folks in town at spinning things

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    You are saying head for head you need the exact same amount of people when certifying the system and operating it?

  • duheagle

    The SpaceX internal financials published by WSJ in early 2017 refute your notion that SpaceX is not profitable. I remind you of this every time you trot out this vintage wheeze of yours and you ignore me every time. I mention it here again for the sake of completeness, not because I think you will abandon your baseless ideation anent SpaceX’s financial soundness.

    This new round of layoffs is only marginally larger, in percentage terms, than a similar herd-culling that occurred in 2014 – also accompanied by fevered condemnations, dark insinuations of imminent collapse and accusations that SpaceX was chaining its galley slaves to their benches and scourging them with whips. In this case, at least, the reasons for undertaking the layoffs is even more obvious:

    1) Contra you, recovery and reuse work and are economical, perhaps even more so than SpaceX itself initially expected. I suspect that F9 Block 5 1st stage that flew for a 3rd time recently showed essentially zero incremental wear and tear relative to the numerous others that had flown twice. Future production plans are being downsized to reflect actual hardware durability and softening GEO comsat launch demand.

    2) The recent whiplash-like pivot from carbon fiber composite to stainless steel for SH-Starship’s combined structure and TPS has rendered recent composite tech hires redundant.

    SpaceX is going to have to launch the first 20% or so of Starlink’s phase 1 constellation on its own dime before any revenue service can begin. I’m sure the company wants to eliminate any unnecessary outflow of dimes during this interval. It needs to get Starlink phase 1 up ASAP both to make money ASAP and to meet its FCC deployment deadlines. It needs to do likewise with SH-Starship because it will be needed to deploy Starlink phase 2 on which the deployment clock is also already running.

  • duheagle

    Oz is a long way from Hawthorne so I guess we can excuse you if your long-range view of SpaceX is about as accurate as was Schiaparelli’s of Mars back in the day.

    SpaceX has not just become profitable. As the internal SpaceX financials stolen and leaked by WSJ back in early 2017 showed, SpaceX has been profitable since at least 2012 except for 2015 and 2016 when accidents imposed operational stand-downs for 6 and 4 months, respectively.

    Not that that seems to have made much of an impression on long-time SpaceX bashers such as our Mr. Oler. Baseless insinuations of SpaceX insolvency have been easy to find for years and continue in the present.

    Nor did Congress ever explicitly direct NASA to down-select to a single CC provider. There were certainly some influential Congresscritters who made no secret of their desires that such be done, but NASA never got such marching orders.

    SpaceX does indeed have several hundred current advertised job openings it is looking to fill. That has been true throughout most of its history. It has also done periodic layoffs throughout its history.

    None of the previous herd-cullings were “witch hunts” and neither is the current one. Recent SpaceX experience with F9 Block 5 and recent fundamental engineering changes to SH-Starship have rendered two significant chunks of SpaceX staff redundant. There is no point looking for covert and sinister motives when transparently obvious and public ones more than fill the bill.

  • duheagle

    The obvious explanation for Boeing’s travails anent 787 is that the company was then, and is now, run by low-grade morons who can’t find their own arses with both hands and a six-man search party. As proof I offer the farcical babblings of its current idiot CEO about beating SpaceX to Mars.

    787 development violated just about every management principle and development practice Boeing had theretofore followed. More proof of latter-day idiocy in high places at Boeing.

    So, yes, SpaceX is vastly superior to Boeing. SpaceX has to be mindful of the same laws of nature as Boeing, but it doesn’t routinely make a practice of tying its own shoelaces together when suiting up for a run. The last two decades of Boeing management constitute a graduate-level seminar in the commission of unforced errors. I have no idea why this blindingly obvious fact is so hard for you, Oler and the rest of the anti-exceptionalism caucus to get your minds around – unless it’s the fact that your obvious preference for belief in fantasy over reality also explains your mutually leftist politics.

    Money spent to develop F9 is most probably included in Elon’s public $1 billion estimate of the cost to develop FH. SH-Starship will wind up costing more as it’s a much larger and more capable vehicle. Musk publicly estimated the likely expense to be in the $2 – 10 billion range with the highest-likelihood point being about $5 billion.

    But that, of course, was before the sea change in structure fundamentals from carbon fiber composite to stainless steel was announced. That change alone probably cuts the notional SH-Starship development budget in half. Stainless steel sheet is a much less labor-intensive material out of which to fabricate large things than is carbon fiber composite. Stainless is also much easier to work using generic tools and machines than is carbon fiber composite. Cutting the development timeline a lot will probably account for the bulk of development budget savings and likely explains the increasingly aggressive “milestone” date estimates being tweeted by Elon recently.

    Can SpaceX’s earnings from operations cover the entire cost of SH-Starship development? Yes. The remaining development cost that is. The development of Raptor is mostly a sunk cost at this point and has been incrementally paid out over a period of several years.

    The reason SpaceX is looking to cut redundant employment and borrow money is because it also has to begin deploying Starlink phase 1 while simultaneously continuing full-steam with SH-Starship. Even so, the total sums involved are well short of a billion dollars. When Starlink phase 1 is about 20% deployed, it will be able to start earning some revenue. The payroll savings and loans are to get SpaceX comfortably through the next year or two.

  • duheagle

    Some almost certainly both can and will.

    Maybe even most. I think a lot more of SpaceX’s workforce is being quickly transferred to SH-Starshp work from F9/H and D2 work than most seem to think.

    But not all.

  • Terry Stetler

    No witch hunt needed; in addition to correcting a skill mismatch, many modern companies regularly lay off the bottom 3-10% of annual review scores. Welcome to the really-real world.

  • Terry Stetler

    Look who’s spinning!!

  • duheagle

    I, at least, have provided plenty of evidence, you simply won’t acknowledge any of it.

    What is the “not knock-off” thing about? Are you implying SpaceX is just “knocking-off” copies of things others have already done? What things? What others?

    It is likely that the total estimated development cost for SH-Starship is now quite a bit lower than when Elon put that $5 billion number out there. I suspect the ability of this structural material switch to make development both cheaper and faster probably played as big a role as its superiority in the cryogenic and high-temperature operating regimes did in deciding to make this move.

  • Saturn1300

    I heard that the TPS will be liquid cooled. Dems do good spinning also. I have given up on the wall. Dems like Obama put up a wall in ’14. They all voted for it. 600mi. I wish, like DATA, I could remember everything and pull it up when I need it. I am about ready to quit. It is impossible to keep up. Just say WOW or LOL. Maybe an electronic personal assistance. I vote for Dems all the time, but changing their minds like this, 5b$ will not balance the budget. BTW GOP tax cuts has increased the deficit. They are not paying for themselves.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    News flash Boeing (The unnamed “cutting edge” company) has made a hot mess of building the aluminum tank for SLS.

    https://spacenews.com/nasa-investigating-damaged-sls-tank-section/

    Notice this lovely appeal to authority has nothing to do with building spacecraft or launch vehicles hence, window dressing. Let me break it down for you.

    It isn’t going to cost 5 billion dollars for Superheavy Starship minimum viable product (satellite launcher). Raptor development has been underway for over 7 years including injector configuration testing at Stennis as far back as 2014 and years of development engine fires at McGregor. They are on the cusp of initial block of flight engines, as so a large chunk of Raptor development is in the rear-view window.

    According to Bruno a solid 50% of the development cost of a new expendable launcher is in the propulsion systems. My guess is that percentage drops for a reusable vehicle but still on the order of 25%-33%. Additionally, the move to common nozzle between upper/lower on initial craft reduces propulsion development cost a lot at the sake of a bit of performance loss (Although Starship has room to spare right now).

    Starlink is both a forcing function and schedule check for Superheavy Starship and revenue source down the road to built out capability. Starship is critical to the scale of Starlink phase II deployment, as a result I wouldn’t be surprised if Starlink funds are “buying” internal flights of Starship ahead to fund the min viable product. The best part about this is it drives an immediate and concrete forcing function and schedule pressure on Superheavy Starship without relying on Mars “dream”.

    So, Starship will be bootstrapped using Starlink and longer term Starlink funds, once operational can fund enhanced Starships. That’s the plan, like it or not.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there is no proof that SpaceX is profitable

  • Robert G. Oler

    but that is not what is said to be happening…skill mismatch is a fog to hide in…as its not what is happening here. as for 3-10 percent…thats turnover not a single point layoff. I bet you that this is in addition to normal (and high) spaceX turnover

  • Robert G. Oler

    that is all wishful thinking. if “BFS” or whatever it is called comes in at 5 billion Elon will be lucky. a more reasonable guess is that it will be between 6 and 7. the engine is not the most difficult part

  • Robert G. Oler

    you can hear anything on NASAspaceflight.com its the spaceX fan club

  • Larry J

    As a privately held company, they don’t have to provide any proof of profitability. Likewise, there is no proof they aren’t profitable.

  • Mr Snarky Answer

    You mean like the wishful thinking in starting a rocket company and car company in the first place?

  • Jeff2Space

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, so I’d say you’re the one on the hook.

    But fine, here is a cite:

    https://qz.com/1299212/spacex-is-giving-wall-street-a-reason-to-bet-on-tesla/

    From above:

    “Thanks to deep-pocketed customers like NASA, SpaceX has been profitable since 2016 while only raising $2 billion in equity, according to Pitchbook.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    its obvious from the fanX comments here that most do not believe the SpaceX announcement as to why the layoffs are occurring…the annoncement makes it clear why they are occurring…there is not enough money to pay these people AND build the two “new” programs. its not hard to guess what he saves with 600 less checks to write…and folks…thats not a lot of money in a 10 billion dollar set of programs

  • Jeff2Space

    You’re taking what SpaceX said in the announcement and jumping to the conclusion that SpaceX isn’t profitable. That is not a sound leap of logic.

    I have, in fact, worked for a company that had a round of layoffs even though the company was already profitable! They had layoffs to make the company more profitable. At the time the company was held by private investors who were looking to make the company’s numbers look as good as possible so they could sell the company. It worked. The company was sold to a very large multi-national corporation and the investors made quite a bit of money off the deal.

  • Jeff2Space

    You keep dismissing the WSJ article out of hand without providing any evidence to the contrary. Why is that?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You know emotionally, I want to agree with that first paragraph. However I read outsourcing management news sources and what Boding did with the 787 development was right out of the textbook it seems. Calling Boeing bad management is like saying ISIS member are not real muslums. I would say the concepts they buy into are deeply flawed, however from what I saw they executed pretty well per the theory. If Boeing management were schmucks, then the schmucks at Airbus are worse as the orderbooks for 2018 have come in and Boeing is very much on top. I’ll ask Cpt Oler to chime in on the overall quality of Boeing’s widebodies and ask if the company is run by a bunch of boobs.

  • Robert G. Oler

    because I dont believe things purposly leaked

  • Robert G. Oler

    agreed…but I am quite confident that spacex cannot finance either project, much less both of them by company “profits”

  • Kenneth_Brown

    If SX is planning on filling open positions with people that are redundant in their current posts, it was a bad PR move to announce laying off 10% of their staff. In fact, there wouldn’t be anything for Elon to tweet. Attrition is pretty high at SX too so it wouldn’t take long to lose 200 people while moving 400 to other posts. Something else is going on. The last fundraising campaign fell pretty flat and perhaps investors wanted to see a smaller headcount in proportion to revenue/profits.

  • Robert G. Oler

    and there are no deep pocketed organizations pay for BFS or whatever it is called 🙂

  • Paul_Scutts

    Hi, Bob. There is no proof, say, except for the application of a bit of common sense. Of course, Richard, could be right, but, it depends upon how you define “profitability”. I’m a simple person, Bob, my definition of “profitable” is when your income (earnings that do not have to be repaid, i.e. not loans) exceeds your expenses. Let’s look at SpaceX’s overall financial position. For the first five years, when they had to create the vast majority of their infrastructure, their income was meagre, to say the least. Commercial Cargo and upfront commercial launch payments kept them afloat. 2016 should have been a financial turning point year, but, for the two failures. Fortunately, 2017 became the financial turning point year. 2017 & 2018 launches combined account for nearly two thirds of their total Falcon launch successes to date, you know, the things they get paid for. 🙂 Being a single product company is not good, that is why they are developing the satellite constellation for a slice of the telecommunications pie and the BFR, who’s greatest potential, IMO, will be mass orbital/cis-lunar tourism. They are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot. They are still only one catastrophic launch failure away from being right back in the financial “crapper” again of having to make ends meet out of advances and loans. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Regards, Paul.

  • Terry Stetler

    Yours missing their 400+ open positions, and that they’re hiring in Seattle (StarLink) and at KSC.

    It also doesn’t take a genius to realize those composite fabbers they hired for Starship and Super Heavy, and the related composites supply chain employees and buyers, just became expendable.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I agree with the last sentence 100 percent. but I would say this as well

    One reason that there is so little private evolution of launch vehicles is that the profit (and I am ok with your def) is small, the cost are enormous, the volume limited and to some extent as you point out failure is only a heartbeat away

    SpaceX without a doubt has it a tad easier then say “Boeing” or ULA as an aggregate because 1) their workforce is quite young, 2) enthsiastic and 3) works on a lot less money for those reasons

    BUT even so its unclear to me that any of this has repealed the laws of product development…as spaceX and space fans seem to think

    Musk has not substantially changed the economics of the market place…nor of his own economics. His launch rate cannot in any form or fashion be generating the “profit” as you put it to plough back into expensive projects like BFS or whatever it is called and Starlink (is that right) both of which are multi billions of dollars programs (I know we can hand wave and they are not) and neither of which have an established or for sure game changing market.

    in many respects SpaceX reminds me of a company called Van’s Aircraft…except Van has found his niche and the comfort zone of a product which sales well, whose sales generate incremental improvements, but he has not made the leap from single engine homebuilts to light jets

    he has not made that leap because 1) he doesnt have the money 2) there is no real market there and 3) without a market that is likely he will collapse in trying

    MUSK hints at this in the statement justifying the layoffs…but here is the kicker. in all of what Musk has done…there is nothing that revolutionary which has 1) changed the cost of most payload development and 2) changed the cost of most payload deployment

    and until that happens its hard to see the business case for BFS (or whatever it is called) unless its…well some way we are going to pay to develop the rocket so well we can all go to Mars, none of which makes money

    I dont drink the Koolaide.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there are now 600 more open positions

  • Robert G. Oler

    that is mostly bs

    I worked at the company during Dreamliner development although I stayed as far away from the program as possible…but most of what you say..is not what happened

    there were management issues, but the key “money driver” was what is driving almost every new generation program…is the software associated with it, followed in the dreamliners case by the entier “rethinking” of how internal systems are accomplished.

    from the 707 to the triple the product development at Boeing has been completely incremental. with some new internal systems per model but a vast realiance on legacy technology. the PACKS on the 777 are completely traceable to the PACKS on the 707. not so on the dreamliner

    coupled with the software that controls all this…well it got away from them

    BUT Boeing has new internal systems on the plane that will last probably about 50 years…as well as a firm hand on software development in internal complex systems and composite work

    was it worth it? there will be an entirely new generation of airplanes over the next 50 years relying on this foundation much as the airplanes after the 707 did.

    I find your comments amazing in part since the only company I now know in space vehicles that is making the “leap” into completely new systems that are totally un flight proven…is well SpaceX.

    if their TPS is in fact liquid cooled…wow that ought to work right out of the bat. 🙂

    “Can SpaceX’s earnings from operations cover the entire cost of SH-Starship development? Yes. The remaining development cost that is.”

    the remaining development cost are nearly 80 percent of the cost of the vehicle…if not more fantasy island you are on

  • Robert G. Oler

    Andrew…I didnt see your post while answering “duheagle” so you might read that and I would say this

    Boeing management made some bad decisions in who they put in the 787 program…but the main issues of the program were as I note in my piece. Boeing for about most of my professional lifetime has been trying to figure out how to “leap” ahead of Airbus and try and substantially change the competitive nature as the technological revolution of automation and the need for ever lower operating cost (and greater range) keep defining the limits of product viability

    until the Dream came along they were doing it incrementally…in both inter product development (see the B737) and new models…aka the 777…but with the Dream they took a leap into the future…that turned out to be harder and more expensive then what they anticipated.

    fortunately the legacy products supplied the financial base for that…but the Dreamliner will remain the technological foundation for the next 50 years of Boeing products in almost every way imaginable

    boeing has done this before. Most people think that the first one was the B17/299 but really it was a fairly manageable evolution of the 247 which was itself a mangeable evolution of the B9. the First one that was the big leap…was the B29….and had it not been for federal spending in WW2…it would have never been tried. the Dash 80 was a leap…but not with the legacy of the B47 or B52 was it as big as the Dreamliner.

    the odd thing as I note to Duh…is that Musk seems to be off on his own Dreamliner fantasy…in terms of BFS. it strikes me that BFS (or whatever it is now) is a massive technological and customer base gamble with little but “talk” to sustain it

    It reminds me in all respects of either the Airbus 380 or the Convair XC99…both of which are technological and financial failures

  • Jeff2Space

    And yet, Raptor is pretty much done being developed. Three production engines are currently being built for “Starship Hopper”. As engines are the long pole in the tent for launch vehicles, this is real progress for anyone who understands launch vehicle development (even at a high level).

    From a historical perspective, the F-1 engine development history is applicable here. When the F-1 specs were written, no one knew for sure what they were going to use it for. The launch vehicle “designs” to use it were in flux for many years. We’ve seen pretty much the same thing happen at SpaceX with Raptor.

    At any rate, Starship Hopper will gain flight experience with the engines and the overall aerodynamics of the upper stage. Even in today’s world of computer aided simulation (I work for a company which writes the stuff), there is still no substitute for building and flying hardware. Tweaks to the final design will likely be made based on actual flight data. This is the same sort of iterative approach that SpaceX took with Falcon 9 as its design morphed from an expendable first stage to a reusable first stage.

    Starship Hopper flying should also help SpaceX secure the funding that will be needed to complete the project. Private investors and “deep pocketed organizations” want to see progress. Flying hardware will be undeniable progress.

    I know this isn’t the same as a sugar daddy single source US Government contract like SLS, but it is absolutely a viable path to getting product development funded for a big project.

  • Robert G. Oler

    https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-10-percent-workforce-fired-bfr-starlink-launches/?mc_cid=a5ddef339c&mc_eid=60eb267dc3

    some money quotesthe emphasis is mine

    ” The terms of SpaceX’s 2018 fundraises are unknown but Bloomberg did

    acquire information suggesting that the company was only profitable or

    break-even with after a range of very specific and dubious accounting

    decisions. Put more bluntly, SpaceX did not demonstrate actionable

    profitability to investors during their 2018 pitches.

    and

    ““[SpaceX showed] positive earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation,
    and amortization of around $270 million for the twelve months through
    September … But that’s because it included amounts that customers had
    prepaid and because it excluded costs related to non-core research and
    development. Without those adjustments, earnings for the period were
    negative.
    ” – Bloomberg, 19 November 2018

    this goes along with what my USAF buds tell me

    .

  • duheagle

    There is no proof you will accept as authentic. That is hardly the same thing as “no proof.”

  • ThomasLMatula

    Not if they have no needs for those skills.

  • ThomasLMatula

    And why would they have access to the private financial data of SpaceX? The financial data related to the launch contracts perhaps, but that is suppose to be confidential and not leaked to outsiders.

  • duheagle

    Here we go again.

    Your definition of profit is fine. And SpaceX has been profitable since at least 2012 as I keep reminding everyone. I suspect it was profitable before that as well, but the purloined financials published in the WSJ two years ago don’t go back any further than that. The idea that SpaceX has managed to last 17 years without profits is, in my opinion, about on a par with a belief that the U.S. government has a fleet of anti-gravity spaceships at Area 51 built with alien technology acquired from the spaceship that crashed at Roswell, NM. Both are essentially magical beliefs.

    SpaceX created almost no infrastructure during its first five years. It was operating out of an erstwhile warehouse in El Segundo and its only launch infrastructure was the Falcon 1 pad on Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll. SpaceX started spending heavily on infrastructure when, first the COTS then the CRS contracts gave it the ability to do so. Once it actually started conducting F9 launches, operating earnings added materially to its ability to spend heavily on infrastructure and still be profitable. That has been especially true the last couple years.

    SpaceX’s staffers, even the ones laid off or about to be, don’t work there for “average wages” because they’re masochists, they do it because regular employees – and possibly even some contractors – at SpaceX get stock options which have multiplied in value over the years.

    SpaceX is not a “single-product company.” It has been operating both F9 and Dragon 1 for half its existence, added FH to its offerings last year, is about to begin flights of Dragon 2 and is well-along with work on SH, Starship and Starlink.

    Given that neither of SpaceX’s F9 accidents put it “in the crapper” even at those times, another accident seems massively unlikely to do so given SpaceX’s much better overall revenue and cash picture. The likelihood of such an accident, in any case, seems tiny.

    To the extent there are “burnouts” at SpaceX, I suspect they tend to take themselves out of the picture without waiting to be pushed. A SpaceX resume entry seems to be worth quite a bit anent future employment prospects elsewhere. Anyone becoming weary of SpaceX has definite options and those are best taken advantage of while still employed or after voluntary separation.