The company has test fired one of its Ripley rocket engines in Colorado.

Ursa Major

Two Colorado aerospace companies laid off employees last week, seeking to adjust to the new normal of a tight funding environment.

The layoffs came at Ursa Major, which makes rocket engines, and Orbit Fab, a startup aimed at providing spacecraft refueling services.

A person familiar with Ursa Major told CNBC that the company has let go of 27% of its staff, or about 80 people. A spokesperson for Ursa Major confirmed to CNBC the company’s restructuring but declined to say how many layoffs have been made. In a statement, Ursa Major said the job cuts are “realigning our workforce to better meet the needs of national security clients.”

“We want to recognize the contributions of every current and former Ursa professional. Their efforts and accomplishments cannot be overstated, and we deeply appreciate the advances in space and supersonic propulsion that they helped achieve,” Ursa Major said.

In LinkedIn posts, several former Ursa Major employees wrote that Wednesday was a “tough day” at the company, as “outstanding people” let go part of the “major layoff.”

Adam Harris, Orbit Fab’s chief commercial officer, said in a statement to CNBC that 10 people have been let go this week, and the company will have about 50 employees after restructuring. It recently appointed a new Chief Operating Officer and plans to bring in a chief engineer and others in the coming months.

“Our refined strategy will enable Orbit Fab to better meet the critical and growing demand for space 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 tour at a $550 million valuation, according to PitchBook. Based in Berthoud, Colorado, and founded in 2015, the company had about 300 employees before layoffs. The Ursa Major’s range of rocket engines has won orders from customers including the Air Force Research Laboratory, Stratolaunch and Astra.

Orbit Fab recently raised money, with a $29 million run in April at a valuation of $113 million, per Pitchbook. Headquartered in Lafayette, Colorado, and founded in 2018, Orbit Fab aims to provide refueling services for spacecraft as early as 2025, having launched test flights in 2019 and 2021. It won early Space Force contracts and the British Space Agency.

Techcrunch I first reported layoffs from Ursa Major.


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