Enterprenuers

Elon Musk tells SpaceX employees that Starship engine crisis is creating a ‘risk of bankruptcy’

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stands at the base of a Starship rocket prototype at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

Steve Jurvetson on flickr

Elon Musk is angry with the lack of progress SpaceX has made in developing the Raptor engines that power its Starship rocket.

He described a dire situation the day after Thanksgiving in a company-wide email, a copy of which was obtained by CNBC.

“The Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago,” Musk wrote.

“We face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year,” Musk added later.

Starship is the massive, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on missions to the moon and Mars. The company is testing prototypes at a facility in southern Texas and has flown multiple short test flights. But to move to orbital launches, the rocket prototypes will need as many as 39 Raptor engines each – necessitating a sharp ramp in engine production.

Musk’s email to SpaceX employees provides more context to the significance of former vice president of propulsion Will Heltlsey’s departure earlier this month. Heltsley was taken off Raptor development, CNBC reported, with Musk noting in his email that the company’s leadership has been digging into the program’s problems since then – and discovering the circumstances “to be far more severe” than Musk previously thought.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The SpaceX founder and CEO’s email was first reported by Space Explored, a subset of technology blog 9to5Mac.

Raptor engine program is ‘a disaster’

A closer look under the base of Super Heavy Booster 4 at the 29 Raptor engines.

SpaceX

A Starship prototype test fires its six Raptor rocket engines on November 12, 2021 in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

Musk on Nov. 17 said that SpaceX will “hopefully launch” the first orbital Starship flight in January or February, pending regulatory approval by the FAA as well as technical readiness.

SpaceX wants Starship to be fully reusable, with both the rocket and its booster capable of landing after a launch to be recovered for future flights. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are partially reusable. The company can regularly land and re-launch the boosters but not the upper portion, or stage, of the rocket.

Musk earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if Starship would successfully reach orbit on the first try, but emphasized that he is “confident” that the rocket will get to space in 2022. He also noted at the time that Starship development “is at least 90% internally funded thus far,” with the company not assuming “any international collaboration” or external funding.

Starship crucial to Starlink’s financial success

SpaceX has raised billions in funding over the past several years, both to fund Starship and its satellite internet project Starlink, with the company’s valuation recently hitting $100 billion.

But, while SpaceX has launched about 1,700 Starlink satellites to orbit so far, Musk said the first version of the satellite “is financially weak.” The company has been steadily growing Starlink’s user base, with about 140,000 users paying for service at $99 a month.

Earlier this year SpaceX outlined improvements for the second version of the satellite, with Musk saying in his email that “V2 is strong” but can only be launched effectively by its Starship rockets.

To date SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites with its Falcon 9 rockets, but Musk outlined that those rockets do not have the mass or volume needed to effectively deploy the second generation satellites. That means the success of the Raptor engine program is also critical to the long-term financial stability of SpaceX’s Starlink service, which Musk has talked about spinning-off in an IPO.

Notably, SpaceX is currently ramping up production of its Starlink antennas “to several million unites per year,” Musk said in the email, but those will be “useless otherwise” if Raptor does not succeed.

Share this news on your Fb,Twitter and Whatsapp

File source

NY Press News:Latest News Headlines
NY Press News||Health||New York||USA News||Technology||World News

Tags
Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
Close