Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Elon Musk says Raptor engine production is a “disaster” that puts SpaceX at risk of bankruptcy

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On Black Friday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk despatched an anxious electronic mail to his firm’s staff, urging them to work over the weekend on SpaceX’s Raptor engine line and describing the production state of affairs as a “crisis.” In the e-mail, a copy of which was obtained by The Verge, Musk argued that the corporate faces a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” if production doesn’t improve to help a excessive flight price of the corporate’s new Starship rocket subsequent 12 months.

The Raptor is SpaceX’s huge methane engine that will probably be used to propel the corporate’s next-generation launch system, referred to as Starship. SpaceX plans to make use of Starship to take individuals to deep area, and in April, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop Starship as a lunar lander to move astronauts to the Moon’s floor as early as 2025. SpaceX has been onerous at work growing and testing Starship prototypes at the corporate’s take a look at website in Boca Chica, Texas, although the corporate has but to launch the car to orbit.

SpaceX is at the moment hoping to conduct Starship’s first orbital launch in both January or February of 2022, based on a presentation given by Musk to the National Academies of Sciences on November seventeenth. However, based on Musk’s electronic mail, SpaceX must launch Starship at least as soon as each two weeks subsequent 12 months to maintain the corporate afloat. And apparently, Raptor engine improvement isn’t on observe at the second.

In the e-mail, first reported by SpaceExplored and CNBC, Musk claimed that after key senior administration departed the corporate, SpaceX personnel regarded deeper into points surrounding Raptor production and located them to “be far more severe than was reported.” Two vice presidents, one of whom labored on Raptor engine improvement, not too long ago left the corporate, CNBC reported this month.

“I was going to take this weekend off, as my first weekend off in a long time, but instead I will be on the Raptor line all night and through the weekend,” Musk wrote within the electronic mail. He additionally urged staff to come back in for an “all hands on deck” state of affairs except they’d important household issues or couldn’t “physically return to Hawthorne,” the situation of SpaceX’s headquarters in California.

While Starship will in the end be used to move individuals to deep area, Musk additionally pressured the car’s position in launching the corporate’s next-generation Starlink satellites. Starlink is SpaceX’s formidable initiative to launch a mega-constellation of almost 12,000 satellites to supply broadband Internet protection to customers everywhere in the Earth. So far, SpaceX has launched greater than 1,800 Starlink satellites and is at the moment serving roughly 140,000 customers in additional than 20 international locations, based on a presentation SpaceX gave to the Federal Communication Commission on November tenth.

However, SpaceX has solely launched the primary model of its Starlink satellites, often known as Version 1 or V1. Most of these satellites don’t have lasers permitting them to speak with each other, although latest launches have included this functionality. Eventually, SpaceX plans to launch its Version 2 or V2 satellites, that are far more huge and can embrace laser communication. And per his electronic mail, Musk claims that Starship is the one rocket that can launch these bigger satellites.

“Falcon has neither the volume *nor* the mass to orbit needed for satellite V2,” Musk wrote, including that “Satellite V1 by itself is financially weak, whereas V2 is strong.” SpaceX filed an modification with the FCC in August, proposing adjustments to its satellites with plans to launch them on Starship. In the e-mail, Musk additionally famous that SpaceX will probably be ramping up production of its consumer dishes, which prospects should purchase to be able to faucet into the Starlink V2 satellites. Musk says the terminals will probably be ineffective except the brand new satellites are able to “handle the bandwidth demand.”

It’s onerous to know for certain if SpaceX is actually in dire straights. SpaceX didn’t reply to a request for a remark from The Verge. But this isn’t the primary time Musk has referred to as on his staff to rally and work lengthy hours or risk bankruptcy. In 2018, Musk claimed that his different firm, Tesla, “came within single-digit” weeks of collapse over issues with the production of the Model 3. Since then, Tesla has rebounded and not too long ago surpassed a $1 trillion valuation.

Read the whole electronic mail from Musk under:

Unfortunately, the Raptor production disaster is a lot worse than it appeared a few weeks in the past. As we’ve got dug into the problems following exiting prior senior administration, they’ve sadly turned out to be way more extreme than was reported. There is no approach to sugarcoat this.

I used to be going to take this weekend off, as my first weekend off in a very long time, however as a substitute I will probably be on the Raptor line all night time and thru the weekend.

Unless you’ve got important household issues or can’t bodily return to Hawthorne, we want all fingers on deck to recuperate from what is, fairly frankly, a catastrophe.

The penalties for SpaceX if we are able to’t get sufficient dependable Raptors made is that we then can’t fly Starship, which implies we then can’t fly Starlink Satellite V2 (Falcon has neither the amount *nor* the mass to orbit wanted for satellite tv for pc V2). Satellite V1 by itself is financially weak, whereas V2 is sturdy.

In addition, we’re spooling up terminal production to a number of million models per 12 months, which is able to eat huge capital, assuming that satellite tv for pc V2 will probably be on orbit to deal with the bandwidth demand. These terminals will probably be ineffective in any other case.

What it comes right down to is that we face real risk of bankruptcy if we can’t obtain a Starship flight price of at least as soon as each two weeks subsequent 12 months.

Thanks,

Elon



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