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posted by takyon on Saturday January 12 2019, @10:11PM   Printer-friendly
from the fired-into-space dept.

SpaceX to lay off 10% of its Workforce:

SpaceX, citing a need to get "leaner," said Friday it will lay off more than 10% of its roughly 6,000 employees.

[...] "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."

[...] 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.

In May, Shotwell told CNBC that the company is profitable and has had "many years" of profitability.

There's an old adage about making something: "Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two." Is SpaceX trying to pick all three?

Related: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project
Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising $500 Million in Funding; Now Valued at $30.5 Billion

Original Submission

Related Stories

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Fired Managers and Employees in June to Shake Up Starlink Project 16 comments

Elon Musk went on firing spree over slow satellite broadband progress

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently "fired at least seven" managers in order to speed up development and testing of satellites that could provide broadband around the world, Reuters reported today.

SpaceX denied parts of the story, saying that some of those managers left of their own accord and that the firings happened over a longer period of time than Reuters claimed.

[...] Among the fired employees were SpaceX VP of Satellites Rajeev Badyal and top designer Mark Krebs, Reuters wrote. "Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites," Reuters quoted one of its sources as saying. "Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner."

Reuters described a culture clash between Musk and employees hired from Microsoft, "where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk's famously short deadlines." Badyal is a former Microsoft employee, while Krebs previously worked for Google."

Apparently, the test satellites work:

"We're using the Tintins to explore that modification," one of the SpaceX employee sources said. "They're happy and healthy and we're talking with them every time they pass a ground station, dozens of times a day."

SpaceX engineers have used the two test satellites to play online video games at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California and the Redmond office, the source said. "We were streaming 4k YouTube and playing 'Counter-Strike: Global Offensive' from Hawthorne to Redmond in the first week," the person added.

Also at SpaceNews and TechCrunch.

Related: SpaceX Deploys Broadband Test Satellites, Fails to Catch Entire Fairing
FCC Authorizes SpaceX to Provide Broadband Satellite Services
SpaceX Valued at $25 Billion... and More
SpaceX Starlink Satellite Prototypes Include Packed, Flexible Solar Arrays

Original Submission

Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising $500 Million in Funding; Now Valued at $30.5 Billion 3 comments

Elon Musk's SpaceX Is Raising $500 Million in Funding

Elon Musk's rocket company, Space Exploration Technologies Corp., is set to raise $500 million at a $30.5 billion valuation, in a bid to help get its internet-service business off the ground, according to people familiar with the fundraising.

The Hawthorne, Calif., company, known as SpaceX, is raising the capital from existing shareholders and new investor Baillie Gifford & Co., one of the people said. The Scottish money-management firm is one of the largest investors in another Musk-led company, Tesla with about a 7.6% stake, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.

SpaceX and the investors have agreed on the financing terms, but the money hasn't been sent to the company yet, this person said. SpaceX could announce the deal by year-end.

SpaceX was last valued by investors at about $28 billion in a funding round in April. The investors are paying $186 per share for new stock in the latest funding round, this person said. That is up about 10% from the $169-per-share paid during the April fundraising, according to SpaceX data compiled by private-company analytics firm Lagniappe Labs.

Including this round, SpaceX has raised about $2.5 billion of equity funding, according to Dow Jones VentureSource. Last month it raised $250 million via its first high-yield loan sale.

[...] SpaceX investors are optimistic about the potential of Starlink, according to a person familiar with their thinking. SpaceX projects the constellation could balloon to more than 11,000 satellites. The largest current telecommunications constellation has 65 satellites.

However, as at Tesla, Mr. Musk has a history of missing projections at SpaceX. In early 2016 SpaceX projected that it would launch 44 rockets this year, according to internal documents previously reported by The Wall Street Journal. On Tuesday, the company was scheduled to launch its 21st rocket but minutes before scheduled liftoff it was scrubbed for technical reasons and rescheduled for Wednesday.

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  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by NateMich on Saturday January 12 2019, @10:33PM (2 children)

    by NateMich (6662) on Saturday January 12 2019, @10:33PM (#785700)

    If a company this young is already cutting a certain, bean-counter defined percent of the workforce, then there is no other explanation than bad planning.
    A company really shouldn't consider this kind of option unless it is perfectly OK with the fallout of everyone there always being concerned that they are next, rather than putting everything they've got into doing the best job possible.
    The last thing you need in your corporate culture is CYA thinking, but that is the future going forward once a business starts acting this way.

    • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Sunday January 13 2019, @09:16AM

      by bob_super (1357) on Sunday January 13 2019, @09:16AM (#785841)

      They just landed their 30th first stage.
      Maybe they're figuring out that they don't need as many people as before, because they now can launch over 20 times a year with only half a dozen new boosters per year.
      Two years ago, they needed to build as many first stages as they launched. I don't think BFR is ready to employ that many builders.

      While that's potentially not enough to justify 10%, they're also anticipating the softening launch market in the next couple years (their fault, for reliably killing the industry's backlog), that doesn't strike me as bad planning.

    • (Score: 2) by slap on Sunday January 13 2019, @11:28PM

      by slap (5764) on Sunday January 13 2019, @11:28PM (#786112)

      The Falcon 9 block 5 is the end of the development. Just like Boeing lays off their engineers when they finish a plane design, Spacex has made layoffs.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12 2019, @11:03PM (18 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 12 2019, @11:03PM (#785707)

    Very interesting that Wall Street has gotten tired of throwing money at Old Muskie by only providing $273mm of the half billion they needed to stay afloat. With a $227mm funding shortfall - and little prospect of raising more money after this broken round - are dreams of an electric-powered rocket to Mars doomed to failure?

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Saturday January 12 2019, @11:37PM (17 children)

      by takyon (881) <> on Saturday January 12 2019, @11:37PM (#785712) Journal

      Their loss. SpaceX has finished building the Starhopper [] and could begin testing within weeks. Now they are looking at getting an orbital prototype ready by June. It looks like BFR/Starship development costs will be on the low end of the $2 billion to $10 billion range estimated last year.

      Ol' Musky went and personally fired some employees in Redmond last year. It's conceivable that many of these ~600 employees now destined for the chopping block are also dead weight. Keep an eye on Glassdoor.

      The big test for SpaceX is going to be Starlink, estimated to cost $10 billion. They will have to launch thousands of satellites, an effort which may or may not be aided by a fast-tracked Starship Super Heavy. Then they have to sell the service. They have gotten $28.7 million [] from the U.S. Air Force to study military applications. It has been suggested [] that the money-sucking industry could use it since it can have lower latency than intercontinental fiber. And then there's SpaceX: The Internet Service Provider. I bet they will use resellers as middlemen to try to reach more customers faster and insulate the company from the customer service and legal responsibilities. But there's no guarantee that people will ditch their current ISP and sign up. SpaceX might also lose some launch business if competing low Earth orbit satellite internet ventures make a strategic decision to not give money to a vertically integrated competitor.

      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
      • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday January 13 2019, @02:41AM (13 children)

        by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday January 13 2019, @02:41AM (#785762) Homepage

        Looks like a mock-up, and a hilarious one at that. If any serious money from the government is thrown into that project, I doubt we'll see what it actually looks like.

        Hint: I won't look like something from the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still.

        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:39AM

          by takyon (881) <> on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:39AM (#785777) Journal
          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
        • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:44AM (11 children)

          by takyon (881) <> on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:44AM (#785779) Journal

          If you haven't been following the recent events, basically they figured out that stainless steel actually ends up being lighter and easier to reuse than carbon fiber. The mirror-like reflectivity in the final version reduces the amount of heat it has to deal with on re-entry.

          So yes, it could very well end up looking like a 1950s low budget scifi movie rocket. Complete with the landing capability and three landing legs.

          [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
          • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:48AM (10 children)

            by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:48AM (#785782) Homepage

            I do not believe that. To deal with the serious heat upon reentry is to use tiles with a chemical composition of a ceramic nature. Steel is strong but conducts heat like a motherfucker.

            • (Score: 3, Informative) by takyon on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:04AM

              by takyon (881) <> on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:04AM (#785784) Journal

              Yes, conducting heat is part of the plan:


              • The vehicle's exterior will be made from a stainless-steel alloy that will not buckle and will remain stable on the launchpad even when unpressurized. The strength and weight of "full hard stainless" at cold temperatures is slightly better than carbon fiber, at room temperature it is worse, and at high temperature it is vastly better.
              • The metallic skin of Starship will get too hot for paint, so it will have a stainless mirror finish. It will need much less shielding as a result, and areas that take the brunt of atmospheric entry heating will be activity cooled with residual liquid methane. As a result, "Starship will look like liquid silver."
              [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 []
            • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:16AM (3 children)

              by Immerman (3985) on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:16AM (#785785)

              Actually stainless steel specifically is a pretty lousy thermal conductor, at least as metals go. It's also non-magnetic, which isn't related (so far as I know), but took me by surprise when I learned it.

              Of course, heating stainless steel too much - say like with a raging wood fire venting through stainless steel stovepipe, and it rapidly reverts to normal magnetic, rust-prone steel. I'm sure reentry would do the job too, even if you're only dealing with the (relatively) much cooler air directly adjacent to the skin. (Most of the heat is concentrated in the compressive shockwave a short distance in front of the reentering craft, and a mirror finish should reflect that away pretty well, rather than absorbing most of it the way blackened tile would)

              A likely missing piece, that I've only heard mentioned a couple times, is that Musk is supposed to be looking at active cooling during rentry, rather than relying on exotic, fragile high-temperature thermal insulation. One of the problems with all that fancy thermal insulation, in addition to the price, is that it can mostly be broken with your bare hands, and if even a small piece is broken off then the intense heat can potentially burn its way through whatever is underneath.

              Of course, it's also possible that the whole thing is a bit of misdirection, and it's actually only the Starhopper that will be stainless steel.

              • (Score: 2) by crafoo on Sunday January 13 2019, @10:24AM (1 child)

                by crafoo (6639) on Sunday January 13 2019, @10:24AM (#785852)

                some stainless alloys are mildly ferromagnetic (usually low grade?). your standard 304 alloy is not though. The stuff that is ferromagnetic also tends to corrode much easier. Generally there are many flavors of stainless. The arrangement of the crystalline structure can give it weak magnetic properties; from the particular alloy it is or (I think) via some types of heat treatments. The skin surface can also be passivated changing it's corrosive properties, but I don't believe that effects it's magnetic properties.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14 2019, @03:41AM

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14 2019, @03:41AM (#786248)

                > active cooling during rentry

                This was a feature of the Dyna-Soar spaceplane (USAF funded), from the late 1950s. It's a fairly amazing story, here's a recent look back,

            • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Sunday January 13 2019, @09:06AM (4 children)

              by bob_super (1357) on Sunday January 13 2019, @09:06AM (#785839)

              They deal with the worst of the heat by turning on the engines.
              That creates a kind of air shield which prevents the excessive direct air hypersonic friction that requires the ceramic tiles. That's also how they can come in with the blunt end first without re-enacting Columbia.

              Now, they still turn off the engines above mach 3 or 4, but that's stuff that Concorde, missiles, and other supersonic toys can handle with proper metal, without a dedicated brittle and heavy shield.

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:54PM (2 children)

                by Immerman (3985) on Sunday January 13 2019, @04:54PM (#785932)

                You're thinking of the boosters I think, which only has to deal with a fraction of orbital velocity (less than a third), not a reentry vehicle, which is what Starship will be. Coming from orbit you're doing about mach 23, hitting the air broadside like a brick to keep the superheated plasma shockwave in front of you as far away from your vehicle as possible, and doing your best to avoid laminar flow that would heat the back side of your vehicle as well. By the time you're down to mach 3 or 4, all the hard work has already been done.

                • (Score: 2) by bob_super on Monday January 14 2019, @05:22PM (1 child)

                  by bob_super (1357) on Monday January 14 2019, @05:22PM (#786500)

                  I just verified on the last launch video: That first-stage entry/shield burn happened at 4500km/h (Mach 4 at ground level).

                  I have not read anything anywhere suggesting that SpaceX is planning for Spaceship to re-enter in a different way, even if the speed will definitely make it quite different. The highly conductive steel and lack of tiles suggests they're planning to scale what works.

                  I'll wait for Ars's Statistical to provide answers, as usual.

                  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Monday January 14 2019, @10:56PM

                    by Immerman (3985) on Monday January 14 2019, @10:56PM (#786683)

                    Mach 4 is practically standing still in comparison - mach 24 (24,000km/h) involves 36x the kinetic energy in the approaching air molecules - you can't "just do what works" at low speed, because it simply doesn't work in with that much of a difference. And of course you're no longer dealing with air - you're dealing with plasma.

                    As I mentioned, you *really* don't want that plasma to touch your spacecraft. And it's pretty much impossible to prevent that when you're shoving a long, thin vehicle through the air. That's why the Space Shuttle belly-flops during reentry instead of trying to fly - go nose-first and the laminar flow would reattach to the back end of the shuttle and quickly vaporize it. Even the heat shield isn't designed for direct contact with reentry plasma.

                    The boosters only have to deal with heating from air friction - which is only a tiny fraction of the heat during reentry, where the vast majority comes from the plasma shockwave. Mach 4 has no such problem.

                    The appropriate comparison would be to it's current reentry vehicles - the Dragons. All of which have nice thick heat shields that they use to avoid being vaporized by the plasma they create as they belly-flop into the atmosphere.

                    All the SpaceX animations I've seen show Starship coming in broadside until its slowed down to below hypersonic speeds. The whole point of the mobile "wings/fins" is to stabilize that maneuver - they're not actually wings, fins, or any other sort of normal aerodynamic surface, as he has stated several times.

                    Musk is probably talking about dumping the heat shield because

                    1: Those things are *expensive*, fragile, and don't last all that long even under the best of conditions. Especially when you're talking about covering half a fair-sized grain silo, which then needs to be completely inspected before every flight, since even a small crack could mean a rapid unscheduled disassembly.
                    2: They pretty much have to be black to radiate heat fast enough - but that means they also absorb pretty much all the heat coming at them from the plasma shockwave.
                    3: A mirrored surface would instead reflect the heat from the plasma heat - thus eliminating the need to deal with the vast majority of reentry heat, and leaving only air friction
                    4: Active cooling is completely adequate to the task of shedding the heat from air friction. It's even been considered for shedding the full heat of reentry, as in the Dyna-Soar mentioned in another comment.

              • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Sunday January 13 2019, @05:00PM

                by Immerman (3985) on Sunday January 13 2019, @05:00PM (#785934)

                Meant to also mention that friction is only responsible for a tiny percentage of the heating for reentry - the vast majority of the heat is coming from that plasma shockwave, which never touches the vehicle itself except via thermal radiation thanks to a cushion of much lower temperature compressed air that forms between them. Which is why you reenter broadside - an aerodynamic profile will bring let that plasma flow right up against the vehicle, and then even those expensive ceramic tiles wont be enough to protect you.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:08AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13 2019, @03:08AM (#785773)
      • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Monday January 14 2019, @05:38PM (1 child)

        by Freeman (732) on Monday January 14 2019, @05:38PM (#786511) Journal

        I'm somewhat surprised that it has lower latency than intercontinental fiber, but I guess as they say it's faster to go as the crow flies.

        Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Monday January 14 2019, @11:02PM

          by Immerman (3985) on Monday January 14 2019, @11:02PM (#786688)

          There's two big factors that contribute to that:

          There will usually be a notably shorter straight-line distance through a dense low-orbit satellite network between almost any two orbital ground stations, since most terrestrial signals don't have point-to-point fiber connections, and instead have to take a circuitous path around the network. After all, you're only adding a few hundred vertical miles to journey that's already a several thousand miles as the crow flies.

          The speed of light through fiber is about 31% slower than the speed of light through vacuum.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13 2019, @12:06AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 13 2019, @12:06AM (#785715)

    It went something like this []

  • (Score: 1) by hellcat on Sunday January 13 2019, @02:42AM

    by hellcat (2832) Subscriber Badge on Sunday January 13 2019, @02:42AM (#785763) Homepage

    It's rather SOP for autocratic (strong leader image) organizations to trim the fat every so often in this public manner.

    Fat trimming isn't a metaphor. It's common to find that a good percentage of personnel have figured out how to game the system to their own advantage. By slashing one out of ten heads, everyone else is put on notice, and it's likely that most of the people let go are underperformers.

    Don't be surprised if, within a year, SpaceX is back up to 6000 personnel. The newbies bring enthusiasm, blank slates, and lower salaries.


    Don't forget to include SN in your LW&T