XCOR bankruptcy revelations


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XCOR’s bankruptcy has revealed how far the company was from actually building and flying its Lynx suborbital spacecraft.

In original financial filings, XCOR reported having $1,424.66 in cash.

No value was given to the Lynx MK1, a spaceplane in development that would take off and land horizontally. Between $15 million and $20 million would be required to finish the Lynx, according to documents. An estimated $25 million to $30 million was invested.

It is hard to say whether XCOR was a scam, or a good idea that simply never could get the investment capital to fly. In the end, however, it essentially turned out to be both. According the article, local government agencies in both Florida and Texas have lost millions from investments they made in the company in the hope it would produce jobs in their communities.

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11 comments

  • wayne

    Can someone dig up the actual Bankruptcy Filing Forms for this?
    It’s at the ‘Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of California,’ but I’m not registered with their on-line document system [“PACER”].

  • ken anthony

    You can call any business that turns out not to be viable a scam. That doesn’t make it so. It’s about intent which can only be imprecisely judged.

    This is why you should start with a viable business rather than hope for one. Then it can invest a part of its profits without so much moral ambiguity.

  • Tom Billings

    No, XCOR was not a scam. It was a viable and systematic attempt to incrementally build a space launch capability. Its capitalization was always slim, but IMHO, it foundered after the Second Augustine Commission. Rather simply, Jeff Greason made many enemies while on that Commission, among the cost + aerospace community’s political sponsors, even as Jeff was trying to make both Old Space and New Space realize they should work together. Indeed, he desired that they should work together using private contracts that were *not* politically directed. Thus XCOR’s willingness to contract with ULA, in spite of obvious reasons for misgivings.

    This is illustrated in Bob Z’s sentence below:

    “According the article, local government agencies in both Florida and Texas have lost millions from investments they made in the company in the hope it would produce jobs in their communities.”

    This willingness to work with local officials in Old Space state locations did nothing to make XCOR personna grata at the State/Federal interface. Jeff has a *lot* to contribute to spaceflight in the future, and as Old Space gets transformed with the coming of BFR and New Glenn, I expect we will see the names of many old XCOR hands popping up elsewhere.

  • lI can imagine investing so much of time one’s life and reputation into something that the founders believed was a scam. What a waste of one’s life that would be. It does happen but I can’t understand it.

  • Localfluff

    Developing a space plane for $20+$30 million sounds very optimistic. Not that I understand why it necessarily has to cost more, but it does.

  • wayne

    [Steve G.– You, the Man!]

    Not a CPA or a rocket-scientist, but unless they blatantly lied on their bankruptcy-filing, it looks like they are in deep & owe ‘all-the-correct-people,’ as it were, so I’m not thinking it was a scam and would defer to other reasoning, such as Tom Billings proposes, to explain the failure.

    One thing with our Bankruptcy laws; They truly do, wipe the slate clean and give one a fresh-start. And it redeploys all this brainpower to other uses. Unsecured creditor’s get burned entirely, but if this tech has any true value, somebody will pick it for considerably less than 100 cents on the dollar.

  • This was not a scam. They developed new rocket engines, flew rocket airplanes, and have a a partially built space plane in the hangar. The simply ran out of money and ran out time. And they had serious management problems as well.

    Trust me. This was a very serious company that the founders and employees invested a lot of their time and efforts in. Honorable, serious people trying to make breakthroughs in propulsion and space vehicles. They couldn’t make it work.

    Whatever issues I have with some of them personally, they don’t deserve for their efforts to be described as a scam.

  • Edward

    Another reason that XCOR was not a scam is that they did not take any downpayments on passenger flights. They were not in this in order to take all that they could but had real hardware developed by real engineers. They had the potential to be a major player with ULA’s ACES long-life (reusable/repurposeable) upper stage engines.

    This is yet another Kistler or Rotary Rocket, a (probably) good idea that could not develop enough revenue for long enough to stay in business.

    This is not a Mars One, a (certainly) bad idea that has never had a path to achieve any of its stated goals.

  • D. Messier

    XCOR did take down payments on flights. The majority of those deposits have been lost. That doesn’t make the company a scam, however.

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