Business

SpaceX to lay off 10% of its workforce

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites blasts off through clouds ove
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Communications satellites blasts off through clouds over Vandenberg Air Force Base near Lompoc, Calif., on Friday.
(Len Wood / AP)

SpaceX, citing a need to get “leaner,” said Friday it will lay off about 10% of its roughly 6,000 employees.

The cuts were cited in an email sent to employees by President Gwynne Shotwell, which was provided to The Times. “This was a very difficult but necessary decision,” Shotwell wrote.

“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.”

Even with SpaceX’s ramp-up of satellite launches — 21 in 2018, up from 18 the year before, and on Friday the first one of this year — it has occasionally cut its workforce. Last summer, the company fired some senior managers at the company’s Redmond, Wash., office because of disagreements over the pacing of the development and testing of its Starlink satellite program.

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.

SpaceX is offering a minimum of eight weeks’ pay and other benefits to laid-off workers, according to Shotwell’s email. The company will also provide assistance with career coaching, resume help and job searches.

samantha.masunaga@latimes.com

Twitter: @smasunaga