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Elon Musk told SpaceX employees that Starship rocket engine shortage creates bankruptcy risk: The Inquirer 🇫🇷

He described the situation the day after Thanksgiving in an email to all employees, of which CNBC obtained a copy.

“The Raptor production crisis is much more difficult than it seemed two weeks ago. We risk a full-blown bankruptcy crisis if we fail to maintain a Starship flight rate of at least one every two weeks next year, ”Musk wrote.

The Starship is a massive next-generation rocket that SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and humans on missions to the Moon and Mars.

The company is testing prototypes at a facility in South Texas and has conducted several small test flights.

But to move to orbital launches, the rocket prototypes will need 39 Raptor engines each, requiring increased engine production. Musk’s email to SpaceX employees provides more context on the significance of the departure of former vice president of propulsion Will Heltsley earlier this month.

According to CNBC, Heltsley had been pulled from development of the Raptor prior to his departure. In his email, Musk said that company management had investigated the program’s problems since then and found the circumstances to be “much more serious” than he realized.

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

Space Explored, which is owned by the technology blog 9to5Mac, was the first to talk about the email from the founder and CEO of SpaceX.

The Raptor engine program is “a disaster,” Musk wrote in the email.

Musk had planned to take a long Thanksgiving vacation, but after learning of the Raptor situation, he said he would personally work on the engine production line through Friday night and over the weekend.

“We need everyone’s presence to recover from what is, frankly, a disaster,” Musk wrote.

The company’s billionaire founder has repeatedly described manufacturing as the hardest part of creating SpaceX’s gigantic rocket.

The company gradually expanded its Starship test and production facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with multiple prototypes operating simultaneously.

The next big step in the development of the spacecraft is putting it into orbit.

Musk said Nov. 17 that “we expect SpaceX to launch” the first Starship orbital flight in January or February, pending FAA regulator approval and technical readiness.

SpaceX wants Starship to be completely reusable, with the rocket and its propellant capable of landing after a launch and being picked up for future flights.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets are partially reusable. The company can land and relaunch thrusters regularly, but not the top of the rocket.

Musk said earlier this month that he was not sure if Starship would reach orbit on its first attempt, but stressed that he was “sure” the rocket would reach space in 2022.

He also said at the time that the development of the Starship “has been financed at least 90% internally so far”, the company does not provide “any international collaboration” or any external financing.

SpaceX has raised billions of dollars in funding in recent years for both Starship and its Starlink satellite internet project, with the company’s valuation recently reaching $ 100 billion.

But while SpaceX has put about 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit so far, Musk said the first version of the satellite “is financially weak.”

The company has steadily increased its Starlink user base, with around 140,000 users paying for the service at $ 99 per month. Earlier this year, SpaceX announced improvements to the second version of the satellite. Musk said in his email that “V2 is powerful” but that it can only be launched effectively by his Starship rockets.

So far, SpaceX has launched the Starlink satellites with its Falcon 9 rockets, but Musk noted that these rockets lack the mass or volume to effectively deploy second-generation satellites. This means that the success of the Raptor engine program is also critical to the long-term financial stability of SpaceX’s Starlink service, which Musk has considered separating from the company through an initial public offering.

SpaceX is currently increasing the production of the Starlink antennas “to several million units per year,” Musk said in his email, but they will be useless “if Raptor is not successful.

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