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Elon Musk reportedly warned that SpaceX faces the 'risk of bankruptcy' from lack of Starship engine progress

Business Insider logo Business Insider 11/30/2021 (Grace Kay)
Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images © Provided by Business Insider Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Elon Musk told SpaceX employees that lack of progress on Raptor engines creates a "risk of bankruptcy."
  • The SpaceX CEO expressed his concern in a company-wide memo that was sent on Black Friday, CNBC reported.
  • Musk said lagging engine production is holding up Starship and Starlink progress.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says the company's Raptor program is in "crisis" and poses a major threat to the entire space venture.

Musk said he is upset with the lack of progress on the Raptor engines that power its Starship rocket in a company-wide email that was sent out the day after Thanksgiving and later obtained by CNBC's Michael Sheetz. The news was first reported by Space Explored.

"We face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year," Musk said, according to CNBC's report.

SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment from Insider. But, Musk has faced the very real possibility of bankruptcy in the past. The CEO has said his other business venture, Tesla, was only a month away from bankruptcy when it was ramping up production of the Model 3 between 2017 and 2019.

While SpaceX is currently the second-most valuable private company in the world, the success of Raptor engine production represents a crucial part of the future of the company, including Musk's plan to populate Mars. SpaceX is developing Starship, a massive next-generation spaceship, as a means to launch people and cargo to Mars and the moon. To date, the company has only tested out the rocket on short test flights at its facility in Texas, as Starship will need as many as 39 Raptor engines to power it for orbital launches.

Musk has said in November that SpaceX plans to launch Starship into orbit by January or February of next year, but Raptor engine production is lagging.

Video: Elon Musk reportedly warned that SpaceX faces the 'risk of bankruptcy' (Yahoo! News)

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"The Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago," Musk reportedly said in the memo. "We need all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster," he added.

The CEO reportedly said in the email that he had planned to take a break during Thanksgiving weekend, but the production issues necessitated that he personally work during the holiday weekend.

SpaceX's development of its satellite internet program, Starlink, is also dependent on Starship's progress. The space company has launched about 1,700 satellites to date using its Falcon 9 rockets, but Musk reportedly said in the email that the newest version of Starlink will require Starship's extra mass and power.

Musk's email comes only a few weeks after SpaceX VP of Propulsion Will Heltsley left the company. At the time, CNBC reported that Heltsley had been moved off the Raptor program because of a lack of progress with the initiative. Earlier that month, Musk said on Twitter that Raptor engines required a "complete design overhaul."


Read more from Musk's email over on CNBC.

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