SpaceX launches all-civilian crew into orbit
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The CEO is furious with the poor progress that has been made on the development of the engines that are supposed to power its Starship rocket. In a companywide email, Mr Musk detailed SpaceX’s crisis on November 26. He wrote: “The Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago.
“We face the genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year.”
Starship is the huge next-generation rocket that SpaceX is building.
Its purpose is to launch cargo and people on extra-terrestrial missions to the moon and Mars.
The company is currently testing prototypes at a facility in southern Texas, and has so far flown a number of short test flights.
But to progress to orbital launches, the rocket prototypes are going to require u to 39 Raptor engines each.
This means that SpaceX needs rapidly boost its engine production.
Mr Musk’s email to SpaceX employees also explained how significant the departure of former Vice President of Propulsion Will Heltsley earlier this month has been for the company.
Mr Heltsley had reportedly been taken off Raptor development before he left, with Mr Musk mentioning in his email that the company’s leadership has caused the programme’s problems since then.
Mr Musk noted that the consequences of this have proved to “to be far more severe” than he originally thought.
Mr Musk’s email was first reported by Space Explored, a subset of technology blog 9to5Mac.
The billionaire wrote in the email that he was planning to take a long Thanksgiving holiday off.
But when he realised the severity of the Raptor situation, Mr Musk said he needed to personally work on the engine production line through Friday night and into the weekend.
He wrote: “We need all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster.”
Mr Musk repeatedly described the production as the most difficult part of creating SpaceX’s massive rocket.
SpaceX has been steadily building up its Starship production and testing facility in Boca Chica, Texas, with multiple prototypes in work all at once.
The next step for the company is to launch the Starship rocket into orbit.
On November 17, Mr Musk said that SpaceX will “hopefully launch” the first orbital Starship flight in January or February, once it gets regulatory approval by the FAA as well as technical readiness.
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But Mr Musk said earlier this month that didn’t know whether Starship would be able to reach orbit successfully on the first try.
He still made clear that he is “confident” the rocket will get to space in 2022.
Mr Musk also mentioned at that time that Starship development “is at least 90 percent internally funded thus far,” with the company not receiving “any international collaboration” or external funding.
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