Jun 21, 2022 - Science

SpaceX's up and down week

A SpaceX Falcon 9 booster coming in for a landing

A Falcon 9 rocket coming in for a landing. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX launched three rockets in about 36 hours after a week marked by leaks that revealed some of the company's employees are increasingly unhappy with CEO Elon Musk's behavior.

Why it matters: SpaceX is arguably the most important rocket company operating today, but its triumphs on the launch pad wouldn't be possible without the company's workforce.

Catch up quick: SpaceX employees drafted an open letter — first reported by Loren Grush at The Verge on Thursday — criticizing Musk's public conduct and asking the company to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful Twitter behavior” among other requests.

  • Just a day later, the New York Times reported employees involved with the drafting of the letter had been fired, with company president Gwynne Shotwell calling the letter "overreaching activism" in an email.
  • That same day, SpaceX launched 53 Starlink satellites from Florida. On Saturday, the company launched a satellite to orbit for Germany from California. The company closed out the trio of launches Sunday by sending a communications satellite to space from Florida.

The big picture: SpaceX has recently faced criticism for the culture of its workplace, an issue the writers of the letter called out specifically in the leaked draft.

  • A former employee at the company went public last year with her experiences of being sexually harassed at SpaceX.
  • Insider reported earlier this year that SpaceX paid a flight attendant working on a company plane $250,000 after Musk sexually harassed her. Musk denies those allegations.
  • Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin has also come under fire recently for its "toxic culture" and alleged mishandling of sexual harassment claims.
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