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Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX is nearing a 10,000-strong workforce as it ramps up its Starlink rollout.
In a court filing on February 26 as part of the company’s battle with the Department of Justice over alleged hiring discrimination, SpaceX said it “has over 9,500 employees on its payroll.” It has more than 100 vacancies listed on its website.
In the US alone, SpaceX has staff at least 10 sites across five states.
SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, is the operator of the world’s largest commercial satellite constellation. Data from a huge COVID-19 study the company took part in suggests its workforce is young and overwhelmingly male.
Around 4,300 employees signed up to give monthly blood samples so they could be tested for antibodies from April 2020 onwards. The study sample was 84.3% male with a median age of 32 — although the age range spanned from 18 to 71.
SpaceX appears to be a popular place to work overall. Part of the reason is due to the perks employees are entitled to, from in-house massage therapists to private talks by celebrities.
Yet, Musk’s employees still live in fear of his ever-changing moods, according to Vanity Fair’s Nick Bilton. Staff told the publication they felt nervous about Musk’s Twitter habit and closely watched his mood so they could use it to their advantage.
“On [SpaceX] launch days, you have everyone at Tesla tuned in to see if the launch is successful, not because we are vested in the rockets, but because it directly impacts Elon’s mood for the next few days,” a Tesla executive told Vanity Fair. “If there was a failure on a launch, there’d be hell to pay; you didn’t want to have a phone call set up with Elon afterward.”
It was recently reported that in SpaceX’s earliest days, rocket engineers were occasionally left to starve due to food shipment failures, back when they were living on a Pacific Island to prepare for a launch, leading them to mutiny.
“We were just wild animals on the island, waiting for food,” Ed Thomas, a SpaceX technician at the time, told the senior space editor at Ars Technica, Eric Berger.
In February, SpaceX vice president Hans Koenigsmann, who was Musk’s seventh hire at the company, announced plans to retire. He told staff he’d be replaced by William Gerstenmaier, a former NASA official who joined the space company a year ago.
The company has grown massively over the past 19 years. “In 2002, SpaceX basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band. That was it,” Musk said.
The company had 160 employees in November 2005. Prior to February, the last time the company publicly commented on the size of its workforce was in May 2020, when Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s chief operating officer, said it had around 8,000 staff.
And as the company grew, employees also grew as professionals, within it. “I worked with Elon in 2002 when no one knew his name and SpaceX was just founded,” said former employee, Teresa Tranakas. “Even though I stayed on for a short period (almost two years), working alongside Elon during those startup moments taught me valuable business lessons that I apply even to this day.
Examples of wisdom she learned from Musk include doing whatever it takes to build a sustainable business and never accepting that something can’t be done.
More than 10 years later, SpaceX continues to find success after success, especially with the company’s recent valuation shooting to about $74 billion, CNBC reported.
Its exponential growth has also meant that the company is looking to hire. With hundreds of vacancies advertised on its site, it looks like Musk is looking to expand his workforce by huge amounts.
Starlink is SpaceX’s broadband service that beams down internet from satellites launched into orbit. Since its launch in October last year, it has accumulated more than 10,000 users worldwide.
Musk also apparently has ambitious plans to colonize Mars. In December, he told Mathias Döpfner, the CEO of Insider’s parent company, Axel Springer, that he was selling all his possessions to fund a future colony on Mars.
The aerospace company is currently at the center of a heated US Department of Justice (DoJ) investigation into alleged hiring discrimination. In May 2020, a job applicant filed a complaint alleging SpaceX chose not to hire him because of his citizenship status. Officials have since expanded the case to look at SpaceX’s wider hiring practices.
But the company has refused to comply with a subpoena asking for documentation related to its hiring procedures, saying authorities have given only “the flimsiest of justifications.”