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.

SpaceX Launches 21st & Final Mission of 2018

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (SpaceX PR) — On Sunday, December 23rd at 5:51 a.m. PST, SpaceX successfully launched the United States Air Force’s first Global Positioning System III space vehicle (SV) from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. The satellite was deployed to its intended orbit approximately 1 hour and 56 minutes after liftoff.

The United States’ Global Positioning System delivers positioning, navigation, and timing services supporting vital U.S. and allied operations worldwide, and underpins critical financial, transportation, and agricultural infrastructure that billions of users have come to depend on daily.

The Launch Facility

The United States Air Force’s first GPS III satellite will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites. This newest generation of GPS satellites is designed and built to deliver positioning, navigation, and timing information with three times better accuracy, and up to eight times improved anti-jamming capability. GPS is used by over four billion users and supports critical missions worldwide.

GPS is a National Security Space (NSS) mission, critical to national defense. In April 2016, SpaceX was awarded its first NSS mission, GPS III SV01. SpaceX currently has an additional four GPS III missions on contract, all of which will be launched on Falcon 9.

Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida SpaceX’s SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station is a world-class launch site that builds on a strong heritage. The site, located at the north end of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, was used for many years to launch Titan rockets, among the most powerful in the U.S. fleet. SpaceX took over the facility in May 2008.

The center of the complex is composed of the concrete launch pad and flame diverter system. Surrounding the pad are four lightning towers, propellant storage tanks, and the integration hangar. Before launch, Falcon 9’s stages and payload are housed inside the hangar. The payload is mated to the Falcon 9 inside SLC-40’s hangar on the transporter erector. The rocket and payload are then rolled out from the hangar to the launch pad and lifted to a vertical position.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Rescheduled for Sunday

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. (Credits: NASA Television)

SpaceX canceled its launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Saturday due to strong upper level winds. The company will make another attempt on Sunday. The current launch schedule is:

Sunday, Dec. 23

Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3-01 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 8:51 a.m. EST (13:51 UTC GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of 2018.

December 26/27

Soyuz
Payloads: Kanopus-V 5 & 6 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 9:07 p.m. EST (0207 GMT on Dec. 27)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

 

No Earlier Than Dec. 30

Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: TBD
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

 

Falcon 9, Delta IV Heavy and New Shepard Launches Rescheduled

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.  (Credits: NASA Television)

After multiple scrubs, here is the updated launch schedule:

  • Falcon 9 — New date Saturday, Dec. 22 at 8:55 a.m. ET (13:55 UTC)
  • Soyuz — Dec. 26/27
  • Delta 4 Heavy — No earlier than Dec. 30, 2018
  • New Shepard — Early 2019

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Spacecraft and Falcon 9 Rocket Prepped for Flight

Crew Dragon for DM-1 mission with Falcon 9 booster. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket are positioned at the company’s hangar at Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, ahead of the Demo-1 flight test targeted for Jan. 17, 2019. The Demo-1 flight test is the precursor to the company’s Demo-2 flight test, which will fly NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Demo-2 is targeted for June 2019.

Tuesday’s Word: Scrubbed

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)
  • Falcon 9 — SCRUBBED — Out of family reading on first stage sensors — rescheduled for Wednesday at 9:07 a.m. EST
  • New Shepard — SCRUBBED — Ground infrastructure issue — next launch window opens no earlier than Friday, Dec. 21
  • Soyuz — SCRUBBED — unfavorable high-altitude wind conditions —  rescheduled for Wednesday at 11:37:14 a.m. EST
  • Delta 4 Heavy — SCRUBBED due to high ground-level winds — rescheduled for Wednesday at 8:44 p.m. EST
  • GSLV Mk.2 — ON SCHEDULE for Wednesday at approx. 5:30 a.m. EST
  • Proton — ON SCHEDULE for Thursday at approx. 7:15 p.m. EST

This Week in Launches

New Shepard booster over the landing pad. (Credit: Blue Origin)

This current launch schedule for this week. Check for updates at https://spaceflightnow.com/launch-schedule/

December 18

Falcon 9
Payload: GPS 3-01 navigation satellite
Launch Window: 9:11-9:35 a.m. EST (1411-1435 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida
Webcast: www.spacex.com

SpaceX’s 21st and final launch of 2018.

New Shepard
Payloads: NASA microgravity experiments
Launch Time: 9:30 a.m. EST/8:30 a.m. CST (1430 GMT)
Launch Site: Van Horn, Texas
Webcast: www.blueorigin.com

Tenth New Shepard suborbital flight.

Soyuz
Payload: CSO 1 – French reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: 11:37:14 a.m. EST (1637:14 GMT)
Launch Site: Sinnamary, French Guiana
Webcast: www.esa.int

Delta 4-Heavy
Payload: NROL-71 reconnaissance satellite
Launch Time: 8:57 p.m. EST; 5:57 p.m. PST (0157 GMT on Dec. 19)
Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
Webcast: https://www.ulalaunch.com/

December 19

GSLV Mk.2
Payload: GSAT 7A communications satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 5:30 a.m. EST (1030 GMT)
Launch Site: Satish Dhawan Space Center, Sriharikota, India
Webcast: https://www.isro.gov.in/

December 20

Proton
Payload: Blagovest No. 13L communications satellite
Launch Time: Approx. 7:15 p.m. EST (0015 GMT on Dec. 21)
Launch Site: Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan

December 26/27

Soyuz
Payloads: Kanopus-V 5 & 6 Earth observation satellites
Launch Time: 9:07 p.m. EST (0207 GMT on Dec. 27)
Launch Site: Vostochny Cosmodrome, Russia

NanoRacks Delivers Educational Research, CubeSats, and Novel Medical Science to the Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (NanoRacks PR) – Last weekend, Dragon, the spacecraft from the sixteenth SpaceX contracted resupply mission, berthed with the International Space Station carrying educational experiments, CubeSats, and industry science research from NanoRacks’ customers into orbit. Within this mission, the NanoRacks team delivered payloads for four of the Company’s commercial platforms on Space Station.

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SpaceX Dragon Arrives at Space Station

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Three days after its launch from Florida, the SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft was installed on the Earth-facing side of the International Space Station’s Harmony module at 10:36 a.m. EST.

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NASA Sends New Research, Hardware to Space Station on SpaceX Mission

A SpaceX Dragon spacecraft launches to the International Space Station at 1:16 p.m. EST Dec. 5, 2018, on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, on its 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract, carries more than 5,600 pounds of research equipment, cargo and supplies. (Credits: NASA Television)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NASA PR) — Experiments in forest observation, protein crystal growth and in-space fuel transfer demonstration are heading to the International Space Station following the launch Wednesday of SpaceX’s 16th mission for NASA under the agency’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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Eu:CROPIS Life Support System – Greenhouses Launched into Space

Eu:CROPIS satellite (Credit: DLR)
  • On 3 December, the DLR Eu:CROPIS mission was successfully launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
  • A biofilter will be used to convert urine into fertiliser in a closed life support system.
  • The germination and ripening of the tomatoes in the two greenhouses will indicate that the experiment is going well.
  • By rotating around its own axis, the satellite can simulate gravitational conditions like those on the Moon or Mars.
  • Focus: Life support systems, biofilters, space travel, long-term missions

+++ Update: The Euglena and Combined Regenerative Organic-food Production in Space (Eu:CROPIS) mission of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) was successfully launched to space. The DLR satellite was successfully placed in orbit at an altitude of 600 kilometres.

First radio contact of the approximately refrigerator-sized satellite to the German Space Operations Center (GSOC) in Oberpfaffenhofen took place about one hour and 15 minutes after the launch. In the next two weeks, GSOC will commission the satellite in space and test all functions. In about seven weeks, the researchers will be able to put the first of two greenhouses into operation. Shortly thereafter, the first tomatoes will be cultivated. +++

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (DLR PR) — At 19:34 CET on 3 December 2018, the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Eu:CROPIS mission was launched into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

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Myriota Launches New Tech on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 SmallSat Express Mission

Myriota co-founders CTO Dr. David Haley and CEO Dr. Alex Grant with nanosatellite frame. (Credit: Myriota)

ADELAIDE, Australia (Myriota PR) — Myriota is rolling out its next generation technology that will continue to grow direct-to-orbit communications for hundreds of millions of Internet of Things (IoT) devices thanks to today’s launch on SpaceQuest’s BRIO satellite.

Launched as part of Spaceflight’s SSO-A SmallSat Express mission, the satellite will be delivered to orbit on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket; adding to Myriota’s growing constellation by testing and demonstrating its IoT network.

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Spaceflight Launches 64 Small Satellites on SpaceX’s Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif.,  Dec. 3, 2018 (Spaceflight PR) – Spaceflight, the leading rideshare and mission management provider, today announced the success of its SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission, the largest single rideshare mission from a U.S.-based launch vehicle to date. The company successfully launched 64 spacecraft to sun-synchronous low Earth orbit via a SpaceX Falcon 9 that launched today from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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