Updated at 15:30 east after the Globalstar statement.
WASHINGTON – SpaceX completed a series of three successful launches in just over 36 hours in early June 19, days after an open letter within the company criticizing founder Elon Musk led to the dismissal of several employees.
Part of the launch began on June 17 with the launch of the Falcon 9 from the 39A Kennedy Space Center launch complex. The rocket, which took off at 12:09 in the east, placed 53 Starlink satellites into orbit. The drive used for the launch ended its 13th flight with a drone landing, setting a company record in booster reuse.
The second launch was held at 10:19 a.m. June 18 from Space Launch Complex 4E at the Vandenberg Space Force base in California. Falcon 9 put into orbit a radar satellite for recording SARah-1, which made Airbus for the German army as a replacement for the existing SAR-Lupe system. SpaceX provided limited information on the launch, similar to the restrictions for confidential US launches, but the German military later confirmed the distribution of payload and successful contact with the four-ton satellite. The amplifier, which performed two missions of the National Scout Office earlier this year, landed back at the launch site.
The last, and perhaps most mysterious, launch was held at 00:27 east on June 19 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida. The only cargo identified during the launch was Globalstar FM15, a backup satellite for low-orbiting Globalstar. That satellite was deployed from the upper phase almost two hours after takeoff.
Several aspects of the mission suggested to observers that the Globalstar FM15 was not the only cargo at launch. This included an unusual set of three upper-degree burns, and the landing of first-degree drones, even via the Globalstar satellite, weighing about 700 kilograms, was small enough to allow a landing back at the launch site.
SpaceX initially did not provide a video of the cargo after the hoops were separated, but it did after the second incineration. These views showed not only the Globalstar satellite, but also what looked like a load adapter. This could mean that the rocket also carried one or more loads distributed after the first combustion of the upper stage. However, it could also mean that the launch was originally supposed to carry an additional burden, but that it was launched without them.
Globalstar provided several details about its satellite in the mission. The company did not announce the launch in advance. In a statement after announcing quarterly earnings on May 5, Dave Kagan, CEO of Globalstar, said the company plans to launch that reserve ground reserve “in the coming months” which, along with plans for a new set of satellites ordered earlier in the year, will provide continuity of service to all our existing and future subscribers, as well as other network users.
In a June 19 statement, Globalstar said the satellite worked well after launch. The spacecraft will remain in the lower transfer orbit as a reserve in orbit until it is needed to replace the existing satellite.
In its submission of its quarterly results to the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 5, the company said that the “vast majority” of costs for the preparation of Globalstar FM15 for launch and launch itself was paid by an unnamed buyer. The same customer is also financing almost all the costs of 17 new satellites that Globalstar ordered from the Canadian company MDA in February.
The launches came days after internal criticism of Elon Musk, founder of CEO of SpaceX, came to light. An open letter circulating on the networks of companies on June 15 states that Mask’s public statements have become a “shame” for some employees, distracting them from work.
“Elon’s behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of disruption and shame for us, especially in recent weeks,” the letter reads. “As our CEO and most prominent spokesman, Elon sees himself as the face of SpaceX – every tweet Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is crucial that we make it clear to our teams and our potential talent fund that its messages do not reflect our work, our mission or our values. ”
The letter, first published by The Verge, did not include any specific examples of Musk’s behavior, although there are probably no such cases. This includes not only controversial tweets, but also a claim published in May that he sexually harassed a flight attendant on a private SpaceX plane in 2016, which Musk vehemently denied.
The letter called on SpaceX to “publicly address and condemn Elon’s harmful behavior on Twitter” and “separate itself from Elon’s personal brand.” It also demanded that the company’s management be considered “equally responsible” for solving problems in the workplace and that it better define its “zero tolerance” policy for unacceptable behavior. Company sources, speaking about the background because they are not authorized to speak in public, said that they believe that several hundred employees supported the letter before it was removed from the company’s network.
Neither Musk nor SpaceX responded publicly to the open letter. However, in a letter to the company’s employees on June 16, the president of SpaceX, Gwyn Shotwell, said that he fired “a certain number of employees” who were included in the open letter. The New York Times was the first to report the dismissal.
In the memorandum, Shotwell claimed that the letter, requests and general process made the employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and harassed and / or angry because the letter pressured them to sign something that did not reflect their views. Spreading the letter, she said, is not in line with the company’s policy “and does not show the strong assessment needed to work in this very challenging space transport sector.”
Shotwell said the letter hampered the company because it was working on activities that included the three launches that were ahead of us. “We have 3 launches in 37 hours for critical satellites this weekend,” she wrote, as well as work on the Dragon spacecraft for cargo and crew and “on the threshold” of the Starship orbital launch. “We have too much critical work to do and there is no need for this kind of excessive activism.
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