SpaceX has taught us all a valuable lesson. If you need five new boosters in March and April, it’s probably best to not cut ten percent of your workers in January. Three of those boosters were needed for this week’s first Block 5 Falcon Heavy launch. At least three delays of the static fire test have now pushed the launch back to next week at the earliest.
Layoff: Cut Their Nose Off
SpaceX announced that they were laying off ten percent of their workforce in California, primarily at the rocket manufacturing plant. This came at a time when they would also be using five new Block 5 boosters for March and April. From a strategic and logistical perspective, it was a dumb move. It also indicates how bad things are at SpaceX.
Layoffs have three primary effects. First, they demoralize the workforce. When layoffs are announced, everyone lives in fear that he or she will be the one losing their job. Low morale is not usually associated with quality work.
Second, the survivors of a layoff typically have to take on additional responsibilities. They are expected to work harder and more efficiently to make up for the workforce lost in the layoff.
Finally, layoffs tend to reduce the knowledge and skill base of the workforce. A layoff rarely allows the opportunity for the worker to pass on her or his knowledge to the survivors. Usually, the worker is called to human resources, given the goodbye speech, handed their final check, and escorted out the door.
A layoff is a bad idea at any time, but in an industry where there is no margin for error, it’s a nightmare.
The first Block 5 Booster was launched eleven months ago (B 1046.) Since then only six more have been launched. Seven boosters in 13 launches. Two of those seven have been lost. SpaceX was debuting a new booster at a pace just slightly greater than one a month before the layoff.
After the layoff, they needed five new Block 5 boosters in March and April, three of them for this week’s launch. Has SpaceX has been rushing to build Block 5 boosters with a workforce injured by a recent layoff?
Enter the Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test
SpaceX is silent on the this week’s static fire delays but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to suspect something is wrong with the Falcon Heavy rocket. Knowledgable sources said that the test would occur on Monday, then Wednesday, then Thursday, Now it’s supposed to happen today (Friday.)
The delays suggest that this is why you don’t lay off your workers in January when you need new boosters in March and April.