SpaceX reportedly fires employees who criticised founder Elon Musk

Open letter circulated by some workers described the billionaire businessman as a 'distraction' to the company

Elon Musk, founder and chief executive of SpaceX. AFP
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SpaceX has fired employees who wrote and circulated an open letter criticising the aerospace company's founder and chief executive, Elon Musk, The New York Times reported on Friday, citing sources from the company.

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, sent an email saying the company had investigated and “terminated a number of employees”, the newspaper reported.

“The letter, solicitations and general process made employees feel uncomfortable, intimidated and bullied … because the letter pressured them to sign on to something that did not reflect their views,” Ms Shotwell reportedly wrote to employees.

Elon Musk arrives to see off the Inspiration 4 crew, the first all-civilian crew to be sent into orbit, before they head to the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Reuters

In an internal letter distributed on Wednesday via a Teams channel with more than 2,600 SpaceX employees, a group of staff described the billionaire businessman as a “distraction and embarrassment”, according to media reports.

SpaceX was not living up to its policy of zero tolerance for sexual harassment, they said.

The matter also sparked an open discussion among the company’s employees in an internal chat system as they were asked to sign the letter either publicly or anonymously.

“Elon’s behaviour in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us, particularly in recent weeks,” The Verge cited the letter as saying.

“As our CEO and most prominent spokesperson, Elon is seen as the face of SpaceX — every tweet that Elon sends is a de facto public statement by the company. It is critical to make clear to our teams and to our potential talent pool that his messaging does not reflect our work, our mission or our values.”

SpaceX is Mr Musk's vehicle for space exploration. One of the company's ultimate goals is to colonise Mars.

It is going head-to-head with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin, which have both launched flights to space with their founders on-board.

Updated: June 17, 2022, 12:49 PM