Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) CEO Elon Musk has apparently shared concerns about his company’s engine production in an email sent to employees last week. SpaceX is currently developing its Starship next-generation launch vehicle system in Boca Chica. This rocket uses different engines than the company’s in-service Falcon line, and these are at the heart of the company’s plans for interplanetary exploration, as well as its Starlink satellite internet constellation. In the email, Musk concludes by highlighting that his company is at risk of bankruptcy if it cannot establish a fast launch cadence for Starship next year.
Elon Musk Wants To Fly 26 Starship Flights Next Year Suggests Alleged Leaked Email
The email was first reported by Spaceexplored, and talks about the difficulties SpaceX is facing with its new Raptor engine. This engine is much more complicated than the company’s Merlin engines for its Falcon rockets, as it reuses all of its pre-combustion by-products in the main combustion chamber. In a rocket engine, the preburner is the component in which both the engine fuel and the oxidant, or one of them, are initially ignited to drive the pumps to drive the fuel into the combustion chamber to generate thrust. .
In the Merlin, the preburner gases are depleted, while the Raptor reuses them for combustion, a fact that increases its fuel efficiency but makes design, engineering and production more difficult. Musk has previously talked about conducting high-volume Starship flights by 2022, but he and his company are now waiting for the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to complete an environmental review of the Texas facility, to allow SpaceX to apply for a license to perform Starship orbital flights.
In an October 2020 interview, the executive highlighted that:
“… I think we’ll probably do high-volume flights, I think probably 2022. So a couple of years from now. I’m trying to make sure our innovation rate goes up, not down. This is really essential. In fact. If we don’t see something close to an exponential improvement in our rate of innovation, we won’t get to Mars. Pure linear doesn’t get there. Well, I’ll be dead anyway if it’s pure linear. If it’s exponential, we could get to Mars, probably We could send an unmanned mission there in about four years. There is a Mars conjunction every 26 months, there was one this year, so this means that in a couple of years there will be another. Four years from now there is another. I think we have a great chance of achieving that second window of transfer to Mars. “
Contradictions in leaked email cast doubt
This rate of innovation seems to have stalled if we believe the email shared by Spaceexplored. In it, Musk describes a “severe” Raptor “production crisis that SpaceX has recently discovered. He also appears determined to use Starship to deploy the second-generation satellites of his company’s Starlink Internet constellation.
The (apparently) full text of the email reads as follows:
Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it appeared a few weeks ago. As we delve into the post-departure issues of former senior management, they have unfortunately turned out to be much more serious than reported. There is no way to sugarcoat this.
I was going to take this weekend off, like my first weekend off in a long time, but instead, I’ll be on the Raptor line all night and all weekend.
Unless you have critical family matters or cannot physically return to Hawthorne, we will need all hands on deck to recover from what is, frankly, a disaster.
The consequences for SpaceX if we can’t get enough reliable Raptors is that we can’t fly Starship later, which means we can’t fly Starlink Satellite V2 afterward (Falcon doesn’t have the volume and mass to orbit needed for the V2 satellite). Satellite V1, by itself, is financially weak, while V2 is strong.
In addition, we are increasing the production of terminals to several million units per year, which will consume massive capital, assuming that the V2 satellite will be in orbit to handle the demand for bandwidth. Otherwise these terminals will be useless. [EMPHASIS OURS]
It all comes down to that we face a real risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year.
Interestingly, it appears that Spaceexplored is not the only source of the alleged email. Another version was shared by the Twitter account Tesla Tunnel, which is known for its fiery criticism of Musk and his companies. In This version, we’ve shared previously, while Musk is still lamenting engine production issues, the part about his internet constellation is absent. We have highlighted the addition to the Spaceexplored email in the quote above to bookmark it.
The reason for this omission is unclear and it is unlikely that Tesla Tunnel deliberately removed it to protect Starlink. After all, the part in bold only validates the account’s position that Musk is exaggerating his companies to profit from government funding. as here for example. Starlink has earned nearly $ 1 billion in funding from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), for example, and its rivals vehemently question it.
In the email, Musk claims that SpaceX is “queuing the terminal’s production to several million units per year “, which coincides with a job posting on your website that we covered in March of this year. However, the company’s chief financial officer, Mr. Bret Johnsen, noted in September that SpaceX was manufacturing 5,000 user plates per week and that this would increase to “multiples of that” by the end of this year. For SpaceX to produce one million terminals, it would have to quadruple its weekly output. Currently, it has approximately 750,000 terminal pre-orders and expects to scale the service to serve 30 million Americans.
Engine production issues are also SpaceX’s biggest problem, as Musk described earlier this month, commenting that:
In fact, we are building the factory to make many starships and many engines in parallel. Then there will be many, many vehicles. The engine build rate is currently the biggest limitation on the number of vehicles we can build.
The engines have also contributed to the explosion of a prototype Starship earlier this year, and a new factory in Texas should allow SpaceX to make 20 Starships annually with the goal of ejecting at least 800 Raptors in a year.
Starlink’s rivals have also used Musk’s tweets to point out that the internet service has a high probability of bankruptcy. Musk has also speculated that Starlink could need up to $ 30 billion to sustainably compete with other satellite Internet providers.