•  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

Black Friday was indeed black for SpaceX’s employees. The CEO of the company Elon Musk sent an email to his staff which was anything but soothing. The owner of SpaceX induced people to do double duty over the weekend on SpaceX’s Raptor engine line, claiming that the production situation is a crisis. In the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Verge, Musk argued that the company faces a “genuine risk of bankruptcy” if the company doesn’t speed up to support the high flight rate of the company’s new Starship rocket.

What is Raptor engine?

SpaceX is designing the Raptor engine at the moment. As The Verge writes in the original material, this engine is nothing like anything else before. It’s a massive methane engine for the next-generation launch system, called Starship. This vehicle was supposed to carry people to deep space, and even NASA encouraged SpaceX to do that and awarded the company a $2.9 billion contract. The agency sees the Starship as a transport that can bring people to the Moon. SpaceX has been hard at work developing and testing Starship prototypes at the company’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas, though the company has yet to launch the vehicle to orbit.

SpaceX has an ambitious intention to manage Starship’s test orbital launch in January or February of 2022, according to a presentation given by Musk to the National Academies of Sciences on November 17th. Such an enthusiastic plan, though in real life we can see the opposite situation. Elon Musk in his email says that the company should loop test flights and conduct them at least once every two weeks next year to catch up with a plan. And apparently, Raptor engine development isn’t on track at the moment.

Formally the email was published by SpaceExplored and CNBC. Musk wrote that the production of the Raptor engine faces severe management issues as one of two vice presidents has recently left the company, CNBC reported the previous 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 in the email. He also urged employees to come in for an “all hands on deck” situation unless they had critical family matters or could not “physically return to Hawthorne,” the location of SpaceX’s headquarters in California.

The core task of Starship is to deliver people to deep space, though it’s not the only task. SpaceX has also a giant initiative to launch a mega-constellation of 12,000 satellites. Elon Musk plans to cover the entire planet with the Internet connection. So far, SpaceX has launched more than 1,800 Starlink satellites and is currently serving roughly 140,000 users in more than 20 countries, according to a presentation SpaceX gave to the Federal Communication Commission on November 10th.

This isn’t the first time Musk has called on his employees to rally and work long hours or risk bankruptcy. In 2018, Musk claimed that his other company, Tesla, came “within single-digit weeks” of collapse over problems with the production of the Model 3. Since then, Tesla has rebounded and recently surpassed a $1 trillion valuation.

Read the email from Musk below:

Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago. As we have dug into the issues following exiting prior senior management, they have unfortunately turned out to be far more severe than was reported. There is no way to sugarcoat this.

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.

Unless you have critical family matters or cannot physically return to Hawthorne, we need all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster.

The consequences for SpaceX if we can’t get enough reliable Raptors made is that we then can’t fly Starship, which means we then can’t fly Starlink Satellite V2 (Falcon has neither the volume *nor* the mass to orbit needed for satellite V2). Satellite V1 by itself is financially weak, whereas V2 is strong.

In addition, we are spooling up terminal production to several million units per year, which will consume massive capital, assuming that satellite V2 will be on orbit to handle the bandwidth demand. These terminals will be useless otherwise.

What it comes down to is that we face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year.

Thanks,

Elon

0
0