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SpaceX seeks $656,000 from California as Musk battles to keep Tesla factory open

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is seeking funding from California’s Employment Training Panel for two projects, including one for training hundreds of employees for Starlink, which has begun building a space-based broadband internet service. Above, dozens of Starlink satellites before deployment in 2019.
(SpaceX)

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. is seeking almost $656,000 in new funding from California in the midst of the billionaire’s battle over whether Tesla Inc. should be reopening its plant in the state.

SpaceX’s request for funds to train existing workers and hire new ones will go before the state’s Employment Training Panel on Friday, one week after the county that’s home to Tesla’s factory sought to block the facility from resuming operations. The company sued the next day, and its chief executive threatened to move Tesla’s headquarters, future programs and potentially its manufacturing out of the state.

Musk, 48, appears to be prevailing in the stand-off. He tweeted Monday that Tesla was restarting production despite Alameda County’s order and said that if anyone is arrested, he wanted to be the only one.

SpaceX’s proposal, which is included in the minutes for the state panel’s virtual meeting, is for two projects. The first seeks funding to train roughly 900 existing employees for Starlink, which is in the first phase of building a space-based broadband internet service and has launched more than 240 satellites.

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“This project has increased the demand for training for SpaceX to ensure that the trainees have the training necessary to execute Starlink,” the proposal reads. The company’s goal is to provide service to the northern U.S. and Canada this year and expand to global coverage by 2021.

The second project calls for SpaceX to hire 300 additional employees to work on Starship, the spacecraft Musk hopes will ferry humans to the moon, Mars and elsewhere.

The Employment Training Panel staff has recommended approval of the proposal, according to the 600-page document. It would be the panel’s second grant awarded to the closely held company, after $177,148 was given in June 2018.

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Later this month, SpaceX is slated to ferry American astronauts to the International Space Station for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Even SpaceX and Boeing, which have accomplished great engineering feats, are still grappling with the tech.

Tesla has also sought and been awarded funding. In February, the company appeared before the panel and asked for $380,512 to train workers, including 1,000 new employees. Minutes of the February meeting show that the company was asked several questions by panel members about previous funding and the company’s history of layoffs, and no action was taken. The proposal was withdrawn.

Musk founded SpaceX in 2002, and the company is headquartered in Hawthorne. It also has operations in Texas, which along with Nevada is one of the states where Musk has threatened to relocate Tesla operations.

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One member of the California panel said she takes a dim view on Musk’s comments.

“Elon Musk’s Twitter tantrum and habitual focus on profits over people leaves a very sour impression,” Gretchen Newsom, who is also the political director for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union, said in an email. “The state of California has done much to subsidize and support Tesla, all while Tesla continues with its outrageous and disruptive layoff practices, has endangered workers with a harsh work environment and OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] violations, and opposes efforts for workers to have a voice, respect, and representation on the job.”


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