The company tested one of its Ripley rocket engines in Colorado.
Two Colorado space companies laid off employees this past week as they try to adapt to the new normal of a tight funding environment.
The layoffs came at Ursa Major, which makes rocket engines, and Orbit Fab, a startup that aims to provide refueling services to spacecraft.
A person familiar with Big Bear told CNBC that the company has laid off 27 percent of its workforce, or about 80 people. A spokesperson for Big Bear confirmed to CNBC that the company has been restructured, but declined to specify the number of layoffs. In a statement, Ursa Major said the job cuts “realign our workforce to better meet the national security needs of our customers.”
“We want to recognize the contributions of every current and former Big Dipper professional. Their efforts and accomplishments cannot be overstated, and we deeply appreciate the advances in space and hypersonic propulsion that they helped make possible,” said Ursa Major.
In LinkedIn posts, multiple former Ursa Major employees wrote that Wednesday was a “tough day” at the company, with “top-notch people” being let go as part of the “big layoff.”
Orbit Fab Chief Commercial Officer Adam Harris said in a statement to CNBC that 10 people were let go this week and the company will have about 50 employees after the restructuring. It recently hired a new COO and plans to hire a chief engineer and others in the coming months.
“Our advanced strategy will enable Orbit Fab to better meet the critical and growing demand for space-based refueling infrastructure for commercial and government markets and missions,” said Harris.
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After years of record funding levels in the space sector, the first quarter of 2023 marked the lowest investment period in the industry since 2015, according to Space Capital.
Ursa Major last raised money in October, with a $150 million round at a $550 million valuation, according to PitchBook. Based in Berthoud, Colorado and founded in 2015, the company had about 300 employees before the layoffs. The Big Dipper series of rocket engines has won orders from customers including the Air Force Research Laboratory, Stratolaunch and Astra.
Orbit Fab raised funds recently, with a $29 million round in April at a $113 million valuation, according to Pitchbook. Based in Lafayette, Colorado and founded in 2018, Orbit Fab aims to offer spacecraft refueling services as soon as 2025 after launching demonstration flights in 2019 and 2021. It won early contracts by Space Force and the UK Space Agency.
TechCrunch first reported the layoffs at Ursa Major.