SpaceX job openings dropped 49% since May, indicating that Starlink may be hired up

3 months ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in News

The last time we checked in on SpaceX ($SPACEX), the company was on a hiring spree to build the BFR to get us all to Mars. As of late, however, hiring efforts at the private Space company have slowed down in the past seven weeks. Where they've slowed the most. however, is telling.

The drop in openings is precipitous, from a high of 556 open position in May to just 285 today. That's a massive 49% cut in job openings.

Normally, such a precipitous drop in job openings for any company would be cause for concern. But when it comes to a company that is working on shooting satellites into space, creating affordable and global broadband networks, and ultimately shepherding mankind to other planets, such a change in hiring doesn't necessaily mean bad times.

Such a lull comes after a steep rise in hiring on the tail of positive contract activity for SpaceX, as we explained last month. This could be an indication that SpaceX now has the engineers and scientists on staff to make good on those contracts. In other words, they have who they need to do what they need.

But it could also mean that SpaceX has the people it needs to do something even more special: Deploy Starlink, its low-orbit satellite constellation network.

Then again, it could mean that the program is canceled.

Comparing the high- and low-points of SpaceX hiring is even more telling.

At its peak on May 28 of 556 open positions, SpaceX was hiring for the following locations:

Location Text

Title (Count)

Hawthorne, CA, United States

366

Redmond, WA, United States

108

Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

32

McGregor, TX, United States

17

Irvine, CA, United States

13

Vandenberg, CA, United States

12

San Francisco, CA, United States

3

Placentia, CA, United States

2

Palo Alto, CA, United States

2

Chicago, IL, United States

1

And as of today, here are the locations in which SpaceX is hiring:

Location Text

Title (Count)

Hawthorne, CA, United States

234

Cape Canaveral, FL, United States

17

McGregor, TX, United States

16

Redmond, WA, United States

6

Vandenberg, CA, United States

5

San Francisco, CA, United States

3

Placentia, CA, United States

2

Irvine, CA, United States

1

Chicago, IL, United States

1

As you can see, hiring dropped at virtually all locations, but the most abrupt drop is seen at the Redmond, Washington facility, where openings went from a 108 to just 6. That's where SpaceX is developing Starlink, the Low-Earth Orbot (LEO) mesh network of satellites that is being deployed to help fund other, more ambitious efforts at the company.

And assuming that Starlink is staffed up, that means the network could be fully deployed on schedule. SpaceX has already submitted regulatory filing to get about 12,000 satellite to orbit by the mid-2020s.

In other words, the hiring drop — specifically where it appeears to be centered — could actually be a good sign for SpaceX and ultimately for the democratization broadband internet. If SpaceX hires 100-odd engineers since May to get the network going, the company could be well-positioned for larger, dependent initiatives.

In fact, when looking at the categories for job openings on May 28, of the 108 open positions in Redmond, 82 were listed as "Satellite Development". Today, that number is 0.

That's right — as of today, SpaceX isn't hiring a single person for satellite development in Redmond. Given that it's highly unlikely the company has ceased its satellite development operations, it's fair to assume that they're heads-down on the project and ready for accelerated deployment.

Of course, this could also mean that hiring for Starlink simply stopped, and that the program could be headed for cancelation. No word from SpaceX yet on that, but given that the program is still in its early phases after prototype launches in February, we like to think this is promising news.

Jonathan Hofeller, SpaceX’s vice president of commercial sales, told spacenews.com that development of the planned constellation of some 4,425 satellites is in its “very early days.”

“We’re still in the tech-development phase of it, understanding not only how to get the technology right but also make it low-cost enough to be effective,” he said.

Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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