Loren Grush at The Vergereports that SpaceX has fired at least five employees who were involved in circulating an open letter condemning founder Elon Musk’s behavior on Twitter, calling for the company to immediately disassociate itself from what they view as Musk’s increasingly toxic brand, and demanding equal enforcement of the company’s professed “No Assholes” and “Zero Tolerance” policies regarding sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior.
Grush also reports that the open letter was signed by 404 employees in the day and half before it was removed from an internal company chat board. A separate story by The Verge raises the question of whether the firings were illegal under labor laws.
Our story, which examines the controversy as well as allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination at another Musk company, Tesla Motors, can be read here.
The Verge also obtained a copy of an email sent to employees to SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell. It is reproduced below.
The Verge quotes two employees as saying there was no undue pressure applied on co-workers to sign the letter.
However, two of those involved with writing it, speaking on the condition of anonymity, dispute that claim. They say they simply posted the letter to the Teams channels, pointing people to it and asking for support.
“There was no pressure applied to anyone to collect signatures,” one employee who helped craft the letter said, who also wanted to remain anonymous. “The open letter either stands on its own or it doesn’t.”
Loren Grush at The Verge reports on an open letter being circulated within SpaceX that calls upon the company to“publicly address and condemn” CEO and Founder Elon Musk’s “harmful Twitter behavior. SpaceX must swiftly and explicitly separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.”
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks. As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX—every Tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission, or our values,” the letter said.
The letter calls for equal enforcement of SpaceX’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment. The call comes amid claims made by a former employee that sexual harassment is rife within the company, and a published report by Insider that alleged SpaceX paid a $250,000 severance to a company flight attendant after a naked Musk exposed his erect penis to her during a flight on a corporate jet. Musk and SpaceX officials denied the billionaire exposed himself.
CNBCreports that SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell defended CEO Elon Musk against charges of sexual harassment in an email to employees on Friday.
“Personally, I believe the allegations to be false; not because I work for Elon, but because I have worked closely with him for 20 years and never seen nor heard anything resembling these allegations,” Shotwell wrote in a companywide email sent on Friday and seen by CNBC.
Musk has denied the allegations, which claim he propositioned a flight attendant on one of SpaceX’s private jets in 2016, calling them “wild accusations.”
In a response to Business Insider, which reported the allegations and that the flight attendant was paid $250,000 severance after confronting the company, Musk said there is “a lot more to this story,” describing it as a “politically motivated hit piece.” Neither Musk nor SpaceX’s vice president of the legal department, Christopher Cardaci, denied the payment in statements to Business Insider.
Shotwell emphasized in her email that she “will never comment on any legal matters involving employment issues” before noting Musk publicly denied the allegations as “utterly untrue” in a tweet.
Reutersreports that SpaceX will build only four Crew Dragon capsules as it shifts resources to its Super Heavy/Starship program.
Capping the fleet at four Crew Dragons adds more urgency to the development of the astronaut capsule’s eventual successor, Starship, SpaceX’s moon and Mars rocket. Starship’s debut launch has been delayed for months by engine development hurdles and regulatory reviews.
It also poses new challenges as the company learns how to maintain a fleet and quickly fix unexpected problems without holding up a busy schedule of astronaut missions.
“We are finishing our final (capsule), but we still are manufacturing components, because we’ll be refurbishing,” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told Reuters, confirming the plan to end Crew Dragon manufacturing.
She added that SpaceX would retain the capability to build more capsules if a need arises in the future, but contended that “fleet management is key.”
Crew Dragon is designed to be flown 10 times with refurbishment between each flight. SpaceX launches astronauts to the International Space Station under a NASA contract. The company is also sending private missions to the space station and on short trips to orbit.
Super Heavy and Starship vehicles are being designed for rapid reuse and airplane like operations.
Former SpaceX engineer Ashley Kosak has published an essay alleging rampant sexual harassment at Elon Musk’s space company, portraying a dysfunctional company where management is unwilling to respond to complaints or to discipline offenders.
The essay was published as seven women filed sexual harassment lawsuits against Tesla Motors, which is another company where Musk serves as CEO. The suits have accused the automaker of “fostering a culture of sexual harassment” against women. In October, Tesla was ordered to pay $137 million in damages to a former African American worker who alleged in a lawsuit he was subjected to racial discriminator and slurs “straight from the Jim Crow era.” Tesla has disputed the claims and is appealing the judgment.
In her essay published by Lioness, Kosak said she incidents of sexual harassment started when she was an intern at SpaceX and continued after she became a full-time mission integration engineer.
CAPE CANAVERAL, FL, September 15, 2021 (Inspiration4 PR) – On September 15 the crew of Inspiration4, the world’s first all-civilian human spaceflight mission to orbit, officially ushered in a new era of space exploration at 8:02:56 PM EDT as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 lifted off from historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
This Year’s Virtual Conference Streams Free to All Starting Today
WASHINGTON, DC (NSS PR) — The National Space Society is proud to announce the presentation of the prestigious Wernher von Braun Memorial Award to SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell at its annual International Space Development Conference®, which will be held virtually this year from June 24 through the 27th. Ms. Shotwell will speak on the future of SpaceX’s endeavors and on the development and exploration of cislunar space.
Shotwell joined SpaceX in 2002 when the company was in its earliest stages. She was promoted to president of the company in 2008 following her successful negotiation with NASA for the Commercial Resupply Services contract. Her responsibilities have included building the launch manifest of the company’s revolutionary Falcon 9 rocket, which has captured a large portion of global launch contracts. Shotwell was also integral to SpaceX’s successful bid to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station, which the company accomplished in 2020.
A landmark agreement between Axiom Space and SpaceX confirms Axiom’s next three planned missions to the International Space Station will fly on SpaceX’s Dragon, in addition to Ax-1.
The growing partnership between Axiom and SpaceX – the industry leaders in human spaceflight and in orbital services and launch, respectively – solidifies the nascent commercial human spaceflight market.
The missions, both managed and launched by private companies, are a validation of NASA’s Commercial Crew strategy to enable a commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit.
HOUSTON (Axiom Space PR) — Axiom Space revealed Wednesday that it has finalized a deal with SpaceX for three additional Dragon flights, on which Axiom would fly its proposed private crews on its next three fully commercial missions to the International Space Station. The landmark agreement between the industry leaders in human spaceflight as well as launch and orbital services, respectively, ensures the nascent commercial human spaceflight market’s growth will subsist.
Shotwell is listed in the Titans category and credited with guiding SpaceX to success.
“She is not only a quintessential engineer with a passion to build things, but also a “people engineer” who thrives on working with colleagues and customers. Gwynne Shotwell is helping to launch our future, and I can’t wait to see what she does next,” former NASA astronaut Kathryn Sullivan wrote.
Koch and Meir were listed together in the Pioneers category for conducting the first all-female spacewalk from the International Space Station in October 2019.
“I believe that Koch and Meir, by their sheer skill and execution, shift us closer to a template based on intelligence, agility, capability, integrity, courage and excellence,” wrote former NASA astronaut Mae Jemison.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — With the first mission to return human spaceflight launches to American soil now targeted to lift off May 27, NASA will highlight the historic flight with a series of news conferences Friday, May 1, that will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website. In addition, NASA astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who will serve as crew for the mission, will be available for remote interviews.
MCLEAN, Va. (Intelsat PR)–Intelsat (NYSE: I) has selected SpaceX as its launch partner for Intelsat 40e (IS-40e). The launch is planned for 2022 on SpaceX’s American-built Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
“We look forward to working with SpaceX to launch Intelsat 40e in 2022,” said Intelsat Chief Services Officer Mike DeMarco. “IS-40e will join the Intelsat Epic high-throughput satellite fleet and integrated IntelsatOne ground network to provide our customers with the managed hybrid-connectivity they need in today’s ever-changing world.”
SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said today the company could spin off its Starlink satellite broadband business with an initial public offering (IPO) on the stock market, Bloombergreports.
Space Exploration Technologies Corp. has already launched more than 240 satellites to build out Starlink, which will start delivering internet services to customers from space this summer, President Gwynne Shotwell said Thursday at a private investor event hosted by JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Miami.
“Right now, we are a private company, but Starlink is the right kind of business that we can go ahead and take public,” said Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer. “That particular piece is an element of the business that we are likely to spin out and go public.”
Investors have to this point had limited ways to own a piece of SpaceX, which has become one of the most richly valued venture-backed companies in the U.S. by dominating the commercial rocket industry. It flies satellites into orbit for customers including the U.S. military, carries cargo to the International Space Station and aims to start flying NASA astronauts and high-paying tourists soon.…
An IPO likely would be welcomed by some SpaceX employees and investors. [SpaceX CEO Elon] Musk has been reluctant to force SpaceX to endure the scrutiny that comes with being a public company and to reveal the details of SpaceX’s financials. This has left employees sitting on valuable stock, which they’re typically only able to sell during a limited number of private transactions. An IPO for Starlink might also allow its longtime backers to register gains on their high-risk investment.
Musk has always said that he would not take SpaceX public until it was ferrying colonists to his planned settlement on Mars.
SpaceX has approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch nearly 12,000 Starlink satellites into Earth orbit. Last year, it applied for permission to add 30,000 spacecraft to that total.
Musk’s company has also been approved to apply for a license to offer Starlink services in Australia.
The following statement can be attributed to Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX:
“SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems capable of carrying out the full spectrum of national security space launch missions and requirements.”
Overall, SpaceX’s mature, operationally proven Falcon launch system delivers significant flight heritage and is fully capable of reliably supporting Phase 2 National Security Space Launch missions.
Phase 2 presents an opportunity to utilize and expand this certified operational capability to support the full spectrum of national security space launch requirements, leveraging the years-long, close technical relationship between SpaceX and the USG Team. This collaboration has delivered mission success for critical national security payloads, including National Reconnaissance Office Launch 76 (NROL-76), Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5), Global Positioning System III-2 (GPS III-2), and STP-2.
SpaceX’s Falcon launch system is the only system offered for Phase 2 NSSL that is flying today and has already achieved national security space certification—SpaceX is clearly the lowest-risk solution for the Government to provide assured access to space on time and on budget.
We continue to track the progress of the Starlink satellites during early orbit operations. At this point, all 60 satellites have deployed their solar arrays successfully, generated positive power and communicated with our ground stations.
Most are already using their onboard propulsion system to reach their operational altitude and have made initial contact using broadband phased array antennas.
SpaceX continues to monitor the constellation for any satellites that may need to be safely deorbited. All the satellites have maneuvering ability and are programmed to avoid each other and other objects in orbit by a wide margin.
Also, please note that the observability of Starlink satellites is dramatically reduced as they raise orbit to greater distance and orient themselves with their phase array antennas toward Earth and their solar arrays behind the body of the satellite.
Editor’s Note: During a talk at MIT earlier this week, President Gwynne Shotwell said 56 satellites were performing as expected and that four had problems. She did not elaborate on the nature of the problems.