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Shake-up in SpaceX’s Starlink satellite division

Capitalism in space: It appears that Elon Musk has done a major shake-up in SpaceX’s Starlink satellite division, firing a number of managers because he was unsatisfied with the slow pace of development.

The management shakeup followed in-fighting over pressure from Musk to speed up satellite testing schedules, one of the sources said. SpaceX’s Behrend offered no comment on the matter.

Culture was also a challenge for recent hires, a second source said. A number of the managers had been hired from nearby technology giant Microsoft, where workers were more accustomed to longer development schedules than Musk’s famously short deadlines. Another senior manager that left SpaceX was Kim Schulze, who was previously a development manager at Microsoft, one of the people said. Schulze did not respond to a request for comment.

“Rajeev wanted three more iterations of test satellites,” one of the sources said. “Elon thinks we can do the job with cheaper and simpler satellites, sooner.”

A billionaire and Chief Executive Officer of Tesla Inc, Musk is known for ambitious projects ranging from auto electrification and rocket-building to high-speed transit tunnels.

Musk’s desire for speed here actually makes very good economic sense. There are other companies developing similar internet satellite constellations, and if SpaceX’s launches late they will likely lose a significant market share.

His concern about the slow pace seems to me also justified. This technology, while cutting edge, shouldn’t require as much testing and prototype work as it appears the fired managers wanted. Better to get something working and launched and making money, introducing upgrades as you go, as SpaceX has done so successfully with its Falcon 9 rocket.

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Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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One comment

  • Dick Eagleson

    It’s a genuine pity Mr. Musk and President Trump are at odds about global warming. In many ways, they are quite similar. Both, for instance, have been targets of organized media campaigns to portray them as mercurial and unhinged in the hope of securing their ouster from their respective positions.

    Another similarity seems to be their general approach to hiring and firing. Musk has previously fired a lot of top managers at Tesla who proved inadequate to their jobs. Tesla’s production and financial results for the quarter just closed would seem to vindicate this approach which was widely denounced while it was going on using much the same terminology as has been thrown at the Trump White House – e.g., chaos, revolving door, turbulence, etc.

    Both men seem to have a policy about subordinates that was perhaps best expressed by the formidable Lt. Rasczak in the film Starship Troopers – “The job is yours until you’re either killed or I find somebody better.”

    At SpaceX, managerial drama has been comparatively minimal as Musk was very perspicacious in assembling his “Three Musketeers” – Shotwell, Mueller and Koenigsmann – right at the start. Let us hope the high-level ass-kickings recently administered at the Starlink offices in Seattle will prove as tonic as the ones at Tesla seem to have been.

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