12 thoughts on “SpaceX”

  1. By way of context, I have read (on the usual blogs and fora) that SpaceX typically culls the lowest-performing 5% of it’s workforce every year, so this would only be a larger than usual cull. I suspect it’s also true that SpaceX will be moving its Falcon 9 refurb operations mainly to Florida, and it may be many Falcon 9 first stage workers don’t want to move there.

    Finally, I’ve read (on sites like Glass Door, for example) that the SpaceX workforce is “cliquish,” and if you don’t get into a clique, you’ll be considered to have not “fit in.” I don’t know how much of that’s true, but I do know that’s how many (perhaps the majority of) companies work. I’m not the sort of person who fits in easily anywhere, but in my later career had a mission critical skillset in my defense.

  2. One of the main ways reusability cuts launch costs is by eliminating the labour costs of building new rockets. So it’s probably inevitable that SpaceX are going to be laying people off as a result, unless launch rates increase a lot.

    At least until they need to ramp up production of BFRs and Starlink satellites in a year or two.

  3. Is it a fact that the production Starship is stainless? The pictures I saw just looked like a full-scale mockup, albeit a flying one. It would be much cheaper to build a steel vehicle for test purposes if all you are doing is checking control laws and landing performance. The outer mold lines need to be the same for aerodynamic realism, but what those mold lines are made of is irrelevant. I don’t see how they can get the performance they want without composite structure.

  4. Carbon is stronger at room temperature. The stainless steel they are using is better at cryo and at elevated temperature. Carbon needs a re-usable, insulating heat shield. Word is they will use active cooling using liquid methane. Nobody outside SpaceX knows if this will just be on the inside to conduct the heat away or expelled through small holes for film cooling. I’m betting the former and the gaseous methane can then be run through an APU along with some O2 to generate power during entry for the fins/brakerons or whatever they are called.
    So they went from insulating to conduction and found all sorts of synergies. I think Elon has confirmed that the actual real spaceship will be stainless steel.

  5. Elon has also stated that the first stage (SH) will be stainless, too, despite not needing much more cooling than FH’s center core.

    It sounds like he’s all-in on the new alloy, and that means he doesn’t have much use for the carbon-fiber experts he’s been accumulating for years.

    I wonder just how many Merlins they have on hand, and how many more they expect to build before phasing them out…

    1. “It sounds like he’s all-in on the new alloy, and that means he doesn’t have much use for the carbon-fiber experts he’s been accumulating for years.”

      My thoughts exactly. He went from carbon fiber to stainless steel almost over night. If you look at the jobs available at SpaceX it is over 400 job listings. So it looks like a net wash of 200 jobs or about 3.5% of their workforce.

  6. Lets be honest here though. Comsat market is contracting, Ariane manages to hold on to a large chunk ( apparently over 55% last year ) of contracts.

    There is no new or alternate revenue stream, with Commercial Crew being perpetually delayed.

    On top of that, Elon likes to chase ALL shiny things all at the same time. Build Starlink first and give your existing rocket some more work, and if that’s as good business as you fantasize then move on to build a larger rocket to launch them.

    1. The GEO comsat launch market is flat or contracting. But a lot of space-based telecom is about to move down to LEO.

      The bad news for SpaceX is that it needs to be its own best customer for the largest part of this transition. Launching for one’s own account consumes, not generates, revenue.

      Other LEO constellation owners might pay SpaceX to put up their sats, ala the just-completed Iridium Next fleet, but OneWeb, the 2nd biggest slated LEO constellation, has already made other arrangements.

      SpaceX’s Starlink can start generating revenue when about 20% of its first-phase constellation is on-orbit, but SpaceX needs to economize everywhere it can until that point is reached by maybe late next year or early the year following.

      And, as others have already pointed out, SpaceX is going to need to build far fewer Falcon 9/Heavy parts annually, going forward, than it has had to build in the past. Plus, that whiplash-inducing shift from carbon fiber composites to stainless steel for SH-Starlink’s structure/TPS almost certainly renders a lot of recently hired composite techs redundant.

  7. Oh no, a few millennials lost their complimentary coffee. Welcome to the real world, snowflakes – layoffs happen. SpaceX seems to be doing just fine working multiple fronts w/ finishing the Iridium constellation and the hopper prototype.

  8. Out: giant carbon fiber structures and passive heat shields. In: stainless steel and active cooling!

    Contrast the way SpaceX is able to flip on core design decisions for BFR (for me, no matter what new name they come up with, it will forever be the Big Effing Rocket!), to the ossified NASA/Big-Aerospace decision-making that eventually killed Venture Star.

  9. Nice to hear decimating in its proper definition. It butchered by news rooms regularly. Stainless steel is an interesting choice. I was just reading about 3D printing stainless steel. Sounds like it could be scaled up.

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