SpaceX Layoffs Come as Market for Launching Big Satellites Slows

Falcon 9 lifts off with Iridium Next 41-50 satellites. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

The Los Angeles Times points out that SpaceX is laying off 10 percent of its workforce just as the market for launching large communications satellites has slowed.

In announcing layoffs last week, SpaceX pointed to its bid for riskier markets — providing broadband internet via thousands of small satellites and building a spaceship for Mars transportation.

What went unsaid was that the company’s money-generating business of launching satellites may also face a squeeze, with new competitors on the horizon and fewer launches planned for huge commercial satellites that operate in a fixed position relative to the ground.

SpaceX cited the need to become a “leaner company” when it said Friday it would lay off 10% of its more than 6,000 employees. The cuts appear to be concentrated at its flagship Hawthorne facility, where 577 employees will be let go, according to a state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice dated Friday. The cuts ranged from composites and propulsion technicians and manufacturing engineers to baristas, cooks and dishwashers. SpaceX declined to say whether its facilities in Texas, Florida, Virginia, Washington and Washington, D.C., were also affected.

Orders have slowed for school bus-sized commercial geostationary satellites. Once as numerous as 20 to 25 per year, worldwide orders across the industry dropped to 17 in 2015 and 2016, according to a 2017 report from the Satellite Industry Assn. trade group. More recent industry order data aren’t publicly available, but experts say the trend toward smaller satellites for Earth imaging and communications has continued.

  • Robert G. Oler

    and the flight trainer should be a nice gig

  • windbourne

    He would have been bored as pure trainer which was the norm back then, and AA did not base all around the world.
    I know a number of the UAL flight trainers and other than stay at home, they are bored with it (though all that are pure trainers speak of not having to deal with regs anymore).

    A friend of mine, is a UAL instructor, who just retired at the Academy, while flying tankers all until recently, and then also trains, while sitting in left seat for occasional domestics and internationals.
    He is the only person that I know that has that wide of a background.
    Sadly, it cost him his marriage. Great guy.

  • windbourne

    Sweden is because my wife is India from Britain and is sick and tired of the European racism.
    Though she herself is a dem and would probably like that.

  • Robert G. Oler

    The T38 half a century old is one of the most aggressive planes to fly in the world. I flew its offspring the F5 in aggressor school

  • Lee

    T-38s have been falling out of the sky like flies for the last 1.5 years. It’s time they were replaced by the new Boeing/SAAB trainer.

  • Robert G. Oler

    no doubt