Elon Musk Unveils SpaceX Starship Test Vehicle

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the SpaceX Texas launch site

Starship test flight rocket just finished assembly at the SpaceX Texas launch site

In an email written by President Gwynne Shotwell obtained by The LA Times, employees were informed of the cuts and told "this was a very hard but necessary decision".

The company cited the need to be leaner to keep delivering for customers and develop spacecraft and space-based internet.

A company source says SpaceX remains financially strong and can continue to "manufacture and launch at a reliable cadence in the years ahead".

"Either of these developments, even when attempted separately, have bankrupted other organizations", it added.

About 600 of the firm's 6,000-strong workforce are being laid off, with the company blaming "extraordinary hard challenges ahead" for its decision. "This means we must part ways with some talented and hardworking members of our team", the company said.

Elon Musk's Space X company is financially healthy and was recently valued at almost USA $30 billion.

Under the Commercial Crew Program, NASA and industry partners prepare for the next generation of American spacecraft that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station from here, the Space Coast of Florida. However, it has several expensive projects in the works - including a launch from California on Friday.

Musk has estimated it will cost up to USA $10 billion to develop a spaceship that could send humans to Mars.

He unveiled a steel-clad test flight prototype of the rocket, called Starship, this week.

SpaceX's Starlink program is competing with OneWeb and Canada's Telesat to be the first to market with a new satellite-based internet service.

Despite the staffing cuts, the company has expressed confidence in its financial standing and its investors, and it plans to launch two missions of its Falcon Heavy rockets along with starting test hops of Starship before year's end.