Bottom line: Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk internally described a critical situation regarding the production of engines for his rockets. Production problems appear to be jeopardizing his Starship project and Starlink satellite internet service, and Musk admits the possibility of bankruptcy if those issues are not addressed.
According to a company-wide Thanksgiving email leaked to CNBC and Space Explored this week, the crisis with Raptor engine production is worse than Musk had previously realized. The SpaceX executive ended up canceling his scheduled Thanksgiving break and asked everyone on deck to fix what he calls “a mess.”
The issue appears to be whether SpaceX can get engine production up and running to support the satellite launches required for its Starlink internet service. SpaceX developed the Raptor engines to power its “Starship” rockets. The company aims to use Starship for a lunar mission in 2023 and eventually send humans to Mars. However, their short-term goal is to use Starship to launch Starlink’s satellites.
Musk explains in the email that SpaceX is increasing production of terminals that Starlink customers will use to access the Internet. SpaceX’s plans to build millions of units a year will suck up “massive capital” and be futile unless the company can put enough satellites into orbit.
“This means that we face a real risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship theft rate of at least once every two weeks next year,” Musk wrote.
Last week, CNBC announced that two SpaceX vice presidents in charge of rocket production had left. Sources said the lack of progress led to the removal of SpaceX vice president of propulsion Will Heltsley from Raptor development. SpaceX’s vice president of launch and mission operations Lee Rosen also left in November, as did senior director of launch and mission operations Ricky Lim. All three had been in the business for years.
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