Elon Musk is frustrated with SpaceX’s slow progress in creating the Raptor engines that will propel its Starship rocket.
In a companywide email sent the day after Thanksgiving, he portrayed a terrible scenario, a copy of which was obtained by the media.
“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.
SpaceX is working on a gigantic next-generation rocket called Starship that will be used to carry freight and people on trips to the moon and Mars. The business is putting prototypes through their paces at a facility in southern Texas, and has already completed several brief test flights. However, in order to advance to orbital launches, each rocket prototype will require up to 39 Raptor engines, necessitating a rapid increase in engine output.
Musk’s note to SpaceX staff clarifies the importance of former Vice President of Propulsion Will Heltsley’s resignation earlier this month.
According to reports, Heltsley was removed from Raptor development before he departed, and Musk said in his email that the company’s leadership has been investigating into the program’s flaws since then, revealing the situation “to be substantially more severe” than Musk had previously imagined.
SpaceX and Heltsley both remained silent on the subject.
Space Explored, a subsection of technology site 9to5Mac, was the first to report on the email of SpaceX’s founder and CEO.
In the email, Musk stated that he would be taking the lengthy Thanksgiving holiday off. Musk, however, stated that after learning of the Raptor crisis, he will personally work on the engine production line through Friday night and into the weekend.
“We need all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster,” Musk wrote.
The billionaire creator has consistently stated that the most challenging aspect of building SpaceX’s massive rocket is production. With many prototypes in the works, the business has progressively built up its Starship manufacturing and testing facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
The launch of Starship into orbit is the next crucial stage in the company’s development.
Musk announced on Nov. 17 that SpaceX plans to “ideally fly” the first orbital Starship voyage in January or February, subject FAA certification and technical readiness.
Starship will be totally reusable, with both the rocket and its booster capable of landing and being retrieved for future missions, according to SpaceX. The Falcon 9 rockets from SpaceX are partially reusable. The business can land and relaunch the boosters on a regular basis, but not the rocket’s top part, or stage.
Musk admitted earlier this month that he wasn’t sure if Starship will reach orbit on its first attempt, but that he is “certain” that the rocket will reach orbit in 2022. At the time, he also stated that Starship development is “at least 90% internally financed thus far,” with the business not anticipating “any international collaboration” or outside funding.
SpaceX has secured billions of dollars in investment for both Starship and its satellite internet project Starlink in recent years, with the company’s worth recently reaching $100 billion.
Despite the fact that SpaceX has put about 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit, Musk claims that the initial iteration of the satellite is “financially poor.” Starlink’s customer base has been constantly rising, with around 140,000 members paying $99 per month for service.
SpaceX announced enhancements for the second version of the satellite earlier this year, with Musk writing in an email that “V2 is powerful” but that it can only be launched with its Starship rockets.
SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites with its Falcon 9 rockets so far, but Musk stated that the rockets lack the bulk and volume required to deploy the second-generation satellites properly. As a result, the Raptor engine’s success is vital to SpaceX’s Starlink service’s long-term financial viability, which Musk has discussed spinning out in an IPO.
Notably, Musk wrote in the email that SpaceX is presently scaling up manufacturing of its Starlink antennas “to several million units per year,” but that they will be “useless otherwise” if Raptor fails.
(Adapted from News18.com)