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Starship’s Raptor engine crisis risks bankruptcy


Elon Musk is the CEO of SpaceX, standing at the prototype Starship rocket at SpaceX’s Boca Chica plant in Texas.

Steve Jurvetson, flickr

Elon MuskSpaceX’s lack of progress in the development of the Raptor engines to power the Starship rocket has angered the company.

CNBC was able to obtain a copy of the email in which he detailed a difficult situation that occurred on the day following Thanksgiving.

Musk stated that the Raptor production crisis was much more serious than it appeared a few weeks back.

Musk later stated that if Starship Flight Rates are not attained, we face real bankruptcy risk.

Starship is the massive, next-generation rocket SpaceX is developingTo launch people and cargo on mission to Mars and the Moon. The company is currently testing prototypes in a southern Texas facility and has made several short tests flights. But to move to orbital launches, the rocket prototypes will need as many as 39 Raptor engines each – necessitating a sharp ramp in engine production.

Musk sent an email to SpaceX employees that provides additional context the significance of former vice president of propulsion Will Heltlsey’s departure earlier this month. Heltsley was taken off Raptor development, CNBC reported, with Musk noting in his email that the company’s leadership has been digging into the program’s problems since then – and discovering the circumstances “to be far more severe” than Musk previously thought.

Email from SpaceX CEO and founder was the first reportedSpace Explored, which is part of the technology blog 9to5Mac.

Raptor’s engine program is “a disaster”

An inspection of the base and 29 Raptor engines from Super Heavy Booster 4.


Starship prototype tests its six Raptor rocket engine engines at Boca Chica in Texas on November 12, 20,21.


Musk said on Nov. 17, that SpaceX “hopefully launches” its first orbital Starship flight. However, technical readiness and regulatory approvals by the FAA are required.

SpaceX plans to make Starship fully recyclable. The rocket and booster will both be capable of landing following a launch. This can then be reused for future launches. SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets can be partially reused. Although SpaceX is able to re-land and relaunch its boosters, it cannot relaunch the rocket’s upper stage.

Musk stated earlier in the month that while he was not certain that Starship will reach orbit successfully on its first attempt, he said that he believes that it will. He also indicated that he’s “confident” that Starship will make it to space by 2022. Musk also stated that Starship’s development was “at least 90%” internally, with no international funding or collaboration.

Starship is crucial for Starlink’s financial success

SpaceX has received billions in funding for Starship and Starlink satellite internet projects over the years. the company’s valuation recently hitting $100 billion.

Musk stated that the original version of the satellite was “financially weak” despite SpaceX having launched approximately 1,700 Starlink satellites into orbit. Starlink is steadily expanding its customer base. The company charges $99 per month for Starlink service.

In the earlier part of this year SpaceX outlined improvements for the second version of the satelliteMusk stated in an email that V2 was strong, but could only be launched by Starship rockets.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets have launched Starlink satellites so far, Musk however stated that these rockets don’t possess the volume or mass required to deploy second-generation satellites. SpaceX’s Starlink service is dependent on the Raptor engine programme’s success. Musk has talked about spinning-off in an IPO.

Musk explained in the email that SpaceX is increasing its production of Starlink antennas, “to several millions unites per annum,” but they will “useless” if Raptor doesn’t succeed.