Alon Musk is concerned about SpaceX’s lack of progress in developing the Raptor rocket engine, which is slated to be the engine of the company’s Starship spacecraft. CNBC reported tonight (Tuesday) that in an email sent by Musk to all company employees a day after Thanksgiving, he wrote that “Raptor’s manufacturing crisis is much more severe than it looked a few weeks ago.” He said, “We face a real risk of insolvency if we are unable to reach Starship’s flight rate at least once every two weeks next year.”
“Starship” is a huge, heavy and innovative rocket that is being developed on SpaceX to launch cargo and people for missions on the moon and Mars. The company is testing prototypes at a facility in South Texas, and has conducted a number of short test flights. But to get to space, the prototypes will need about 39 raptor engines each – which necessitates accelerating its production.
The email Musk sent to the company’s employees provides more connection to the departure of former vice president of paddling, Will Haltsley, who was removed from the Raptor development team before he left. Musk noted that the company’s top executives have been plagued by program problems since then – and found that the situation is “much more difficult” than he previously thought.
SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment on CNBC.
Raptor engine program is a “disaster”
Musk wrote in an email that he planned to be on vacation during Thanksgiving, but after discovering the Raptor’s condition he decided to work personally on the engine’s production line, including Fridays and weekends. “We need all hands on board to recover from what is, to be honest, a disaster,” Musk wrote. The billionaire has repeatedly described production as the most difficult part of rocket formation.
The company’s next big step in developing the starship is launching into a satellite orbit. On November 17, Musk announced that SpaceX would “hopefully launch” the rocket into orbit for the first time in January or February, subject to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval and technical capability.
SpaceX wants Starship to be fully reusable so that both the spacecraft and its accelerator can land after launch and be used for future flights. Currently, the company’s Falcon 9 launcher is only partially reusable – the accelerators can be reactivated, but not the top of the rocket.
Musk said earlier in the news that he is not sure if the Starship will be able to reach a satellite orbit on the first attempt, but stressed that he is “sure” that the rocket will reach space in 2022. He also noted at the time that the development of the spacecraft is “at least 90% internal funding so far.”
The engines are essential to the economic success of the Starlink venture
SpaceX has raised billions of dollars in recent years to fund Starship and fund its satellite internet venture, Starlink. The company’s value recently reached $ 100 billion.
While SpaceX has already launched about 1,700 satellites into space so far, Musk said the first version of the satellite is “financially weak.” The company is steadily increasing its StarLink user base, with about 140,000 users paying $ 99 a month for the service.
Earlier this year SpaceX outlined improvements for the second version of the satellite. Musk said in his email that “V2 is powerful”, but can only be launched effectively by Starship rockets. So far, SpaceX has launched the satellites using its Falcon 9 launchers, but Musk stressed that these rockets do not have the features required to effectively deploy second-generation satellites. Meaning: The success of the Raptor engine program is also critical to the long-term financial stability of SpaceX’s Starlink service.
SpaceX is now increasing its production of Starlink antennas “to several million units a year”, but according to Musk’s email – these will be “useless” if the production of Raptor motors fails.