XCOR Files for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy

Lynx suborbital space plane (Credit: XCOR)

MOJAVE, Calif. – Troubled XCOR Aerospace, a pioneer in reusable rocket engine technology, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in federal court on Wednesday, according to court documents.

The filing will lead to the liquidation of the 18-year old company, whose engine technology was designed to power the two-person Lynx suborbital space plane XCOR was building. The vehicle, which was designed to take off and land on a runway, was only partially completed before most work on it stopped last year.

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Gibson: Cancellation of ULA Contract Led to Recent XCOR Layoffs

John (Jay) Gibson

Former XCOR CEO Jay Gibson told the Senate Armed Services Committee this week that the cancellation of an engine contract by United Launch Alliance led the struggling Mojave-based company to lay off its remaining employees last month.

“We were a subcontractor, and in the days of continuing resolutions we felt like we had a commitment from our prime” for funding that he said would last a year or more. “With less than 30 days notice, we were told that funding was terminated.”
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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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Jay Gibson Out at XCOR, In With Trump Administration

John (Jay) Gibson

Jay Gibson’s two-year tenure as president and CEO of XCOR appears to be at an end.

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate Gibson to be deputy chief management officer of the Department of Defense.

The announcement describes Gibson as “most recently” having been XCOR’s president and CEO. However, a source says he is still at the company.

The nomination is subject to Senate confirmation.

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 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.

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.

UPDATE: XCOR board member Michael Blum issued the following written statement:

“Jay Gibson is still at XCOR but will be leaving shortly for a tremendous opportunity to serve his country in a very senior role at DoD. He has been a great CEO whose leadership and experience has guided XCOR through ups and downs.”

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XCOR Layoffs Update

Chine panels being fitted to the side of the Lynx. (Credit: XCOR)
Chine panels being fitted to the side of the Lynx. (Credit: XCOR)

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.

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Two Founders Depart XCOR, Greason Remains on Board

Jeff Greason
Jeff Greason

MOJAVE, CA, November 23 (XCOR PR) —  XCOR Aerospace announced earlier today that two of its original founders, Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason and Chief Engineer Dan DeLong, are stepping back from their current positions. With the first Lynx closer to completion, both want to turn their attention to pursue other interests. The two stood at the cradle of the Lynx reusable launch vehicle and have been working painstakingly on the revolutionary spacecraft for the last years. Greason will maintain his position on the company’s Board of Directors.

XCOR CEO Jay Gibson: ‘Both Jeff and Dan are true pioneers in our business. It’s their vision and their perseverance that helped us getting to where we stand now. We owe both men a lot of gratitude for all the time, energy and groundbreaking ideas they have been contributing to our company and the industry and of course we look forward to possibly working together in the future. Lynx is now in the good hands of XCOR’s highly capable and talented Technical, Engineering and program teams. 2016 Will be an exciting year in which we’re about to reach some truly significant milestones. Lynx will be the world’s first Instantly Reusable Launch Vehicle (I-RLV) and over 350 clients are as eager as we are to undertake the first trip into space. Next to that we will keep investing in our own facilities in both Mojave and Midland, where LYNX’s orbital successor will be one of the strategic focus points.’

Editor’s Note: A third founder, Aleta Jackson, has also left XCOR. She’s not speaking about it on the record at the moment.

XCOR Signs Agreements with DLR, ESA-ESTEC

Credit: XCOR
Credit: XCOR

Here are a couple of short XCOR press releases related to agreements signed by CEO Jay Gibson in Europe back in May. One is an agreement with the German space agency DLR relating to medical screening protocols for Lynx passengers. The second involves a multi-party letter of intent Gibson signed with ESA-ESTEC and two other organizations to jointly develop a new space mission concept.

XCOR didn’t publicize the trip at the time, and the information only recently appeared on the company’s revamped website.

COLOGNE, Germany — XCOR’s CEO Jay Gibson signed an agreement with Professor Rupert Gerzer, General Director of the prestigious DLR Institute for Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany on May 20.

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Gibson Excited About XCOR Challenge; Greason Happy in New Role

John (Jay) Gibson
John (Jay) Gibson

A bit more on the management changes that XCOR announced earlier this week.

Jay Gibson has taken over as CEO and President. The CEO position was formerly held by company founder Jeff Greason, who has moved over the chief technology officer (CTO) role.

The job of president was formerly held by Andrew Nelson. XCOR has no announcement about Nelson’s status.

Gibson says he moved on from his position at Beechcraft  Corp. because he was looking for something exciting to do.

“I’ve reached a point where I want to get involved in something that’s exciting,” he said. Gibson also wanted to get into a field still early in the development curve, where opportunities for growth abound. Commercial space fits that. And finally he wanted a company trying to do something unique. “When I became more versant in what XCOR does, and its driving towards a very commercial product, it was an easy decision.”

“Jay has the credibility and experience to expand the frontiers that we have, and the businesses we have,” Greason said.

Greason professes to be happy with his new role, which allows him to focus on technology and not CEO responsibilities such as fundraising and trying to figure out how to put more bathrooms in a World War II-era hangar in compliance with 21th century building codes.

Leaving his CEO and president position to move into a CTO role, Greason said he can now focus on advanced projects and next-generation developments — innovations that motivated his co-founding of XCOR in 1999.

“As the company has grown, it’s become a bigger and bigger job to run it,” Greason said. “And I can’t do both the advanced engineering and leadership, so now I can let Jay focus on the bigger picture, and I can focus on the things that I love to do.”

Greason said that advanced technology, the vision that he has for XCOR, the larger picture of the aerospace industry’s future and the regulatory and policy framework for the industry are his passions.

“It’s what wakes me up in the morning,” Greason said.

XCOR Still Heading for Texas — Eventually

Texas Gov. Rick Perry flanked by XCOR officials in front of a full-scale mockup of the Lynx space plane in Midland. (Credit: Gov. Rick Perry's Office)
Texas Gov. Rick Perry flanked by XCOR officials in front of a full-scale mockup of the Lynx space plane in Midland. (Credit: Gov. Rick Perry’s Office)

Nearly three years after signing an agreement to move its headquarters to Midland, XCOR Aerospace is still in Mojave. But, the company’s executives are saying XCOR is still moving to West Texas.

XCOR Aerospace’s new CEO and President Jay Gibson and new Chief Technology Officer Jeff Greason reaffirmed that the Mojave, California-based private space company is still committed to making Midland its new home….

Gibson said that, when XCOR first announced in 2012 its partnership with local entities, a long-term vision was established that Midland was going to be a big part of XCOR’s identity.

“To be honest, that (vision) hasn’t changed,” Gibson said. “My role is just one of evolution to solidify that and get us to where Midland continues to be a significant part of our plans.”

Before joining XCOR, Gibson held high-level positions at Beechcraft Corp., the U.S. Air Force and Office of the Secretary of Defense. He was vice president of the Special Missions Group and vice president and CFO of the defense unit at Beechcraft Corp., and assistant secretary of the U.S. Air Force and deputy under the secretary of defense.

Gibson is also familiar with West Texas, having lived in Abilene for 11 years.

XCOR has suffered major delays in assembling the first Lynx rocket plane, which it originally hoped to have in flight tests by the end of 2012. The company plans to begin flight tests in Mojave before moving to Midland. It’s not clear when flight tests will begin.