Space, SpaceX's Starship

Former SpaceX’s Turkish engineer accuses Elon Musk of slavery

In a book that tells the early “desperate” days of SpaceX, an engineer claims that Elon Musk abandoned his workers as “slaves” on an island.

A Turkish engineer who worked on the Falcon-1 project of the American aerospace company SpaceX, has accused its founder and CEO, South African billionaire Elon Musk, of forcing the company’s workers to work in conditions of “slavery” to carry out his projects.

We were abandoned on an island. He (Musk) made us work like slaves,” says Bülent Altan, whose testimony is included in a book called “Lift off”, which describes the early days of SpaceX, founded in 2002. Altan came to be vice president of Starlink – the communications satellite network developed by SpaceX – and he is currently an executive in Mynaric, a company that manufactures laser communication equipment.

Altan was then working on the construction of a launch pad for the Falcon-1, the two-stage rocket initially developed by SpaceX and which was in service between 2006 and 2009 before being replaced by the Falcon-9; Altan and other SpaceX engineers and employees worked on the small island of Omelek, an islet of just 3 hectares located in the Kwajalein Atoll, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where Musk forced them to work “for success.”

Isolated on a Pacific island, SpaceX workers barely had food

“During our first year on the island, there was a huge problem with logistics. We had to face delays in the arrival of food to the island,” says Altan, to the point that in the fall of 2005, SpaceX workers on the island “protested and started a strike.”

“We all sat on the shore of the island, like wild animals waiting for their prey. After a while, a plane, which could not land on the island, threw frozen chicken wings and cigarettes from the air, and we all ran to catch them,” says the Turkish engineer. The pressure to achieve results was enormous, and despite everything the first Falcon-1 rocket exploded in the air and fell into the ocean.

Only during the Falcon-1’s second launch test, conducted in March 2007, did SpaceX’s new rocket manage to reach space. But it was not until the third and successful launch that the island’s workers began to receive a better diet, including drinks and more elaborate dishes, according to the recently published book written by veteran space reporter Eric Berger, in which he recounts the early “desperate” days of SpaceX.

The publication of the details of the book, and the allegations of slavery against Elon Musk by this Turkish engineer, coincides with the relatively successful launch of SpaceX’s Starship 10, a new prototype of the reusable vertical take-off and landing craft with which Musk intends to establish human colonies on Mars. Despite the fact that the ship exploded minutes after landing, Musk – considered the richest person in the world, above even Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon – said that it was a success because it landed “in one piece.”