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

Ursa Major

A pair of Colorado space companies laid off employees this past week, seeking to adapt to the new normal of a tight funding environment.

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

A person familiar with Ursa Major told CNBC that the company let go of 27% of its employees, or about 80 people. An Ursa Major spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that the company restructured, but declined to specify the number of layoffs made. In a statement, Ursa Major said the job reductions are “realigning our workforce to better meet the needs of our national security customers.” 

“We do want to acknowledge contributions of every current and former Ursa Major professional. Their efforts and achievements cannot be overstated, and we deeply appreciate the advances in space and hypersonic propulsion they helped make possible,” Ursa Major said.

In LinkedIn posts, multiple former Ursa Major employees wrote that Wednesday was a “rough day” at the company, with “top-notch people” let go as part of the “major layoff.”

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

“Our refined strategy will enable Orbit Fab to better meet critical and growing demand for in-space refueling infrastructure for commercial and government markets and missions,” Harris said.

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After years of record funding levels in the space sector, the first quarter of 2023 saw the lowest period of investment in the industry since 2015, according to Space Capital.

Ursa Major last raised money in October, with a $150 million round at a $550 million valuation, according to PitchBook. Based in Berthoud, Colorado and founded in 2015, the company had about 300 employees before the layoffs. Ursa Major’s lineup of rocket engines have won orders from customers including the Air Force Research Laboratory, Stratolaunch, and Astra.

Orbit Fab raised funds more recently, with a $29 million round in April at a $113 million valuation, per Pitchbook. Based in Lafayette, Colorado and founded in 2018, Orbit Fab aims to offer spacecraft refueling services as soon as 2025, having launched demonstration flights in 2019 and 2021. It has won early contracts from Space Force and the U.K. Space Agency.

TechCrunch first reported the Ursa Major layoffs.