SpaceX employees received a nightmare email over the holiday weekend from CEO Elon Musk, warning them of a brewing crisis with its Raptor engine production that, if unsolved, could result in the company’s bankruptcy. The email, obtained by SpaceExplored, CNBC, and The Verge, urged employees to work over the weekend in a desperate attempt to increase production of the engine meant to power its next-generation Starship launch vehicle.
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“Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago,” Musk reportedly wrote. “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.”
SpaceX did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment but Musk did Tweet about the report Tuesday afternoon.
“The magnitude of the Starship program is not widely appreciated” Musk tweeted. “It is designed to extend life to Mars (and the moon), which requires ~1000 times more payload to orbit than all current Earth rockets combined.” Though Musk did not confirm or deny the email’s veracity he spoke to its content saying that, while he did not believe bankruptcy was likely, it wasn’t impossible either. The CEO went on to apparently quote Intel founder and former CEO Andrew Grove, writing “only the paranoid survive.”
In his email, Musk advised workers to cut their holiday weekend short and called for an “all hands on deck to recover from what is, quite frankly, a disaster.” Summing up the problem, Musk warned the company could face bankruptcy if it could not get Starship flights running once every two weeks in 2022. If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because Musk has previously spoken publicly about times where both SpaceX and Tesla were on the verge of bankruptcy in their early years. More recently Musk claimed Tesla came within “single digits” of bankruptcy as recent as 2018.
Raptor’s engine is a critical component of Starship, which SpaceX hopes will one-day transport cargo and people to the moon and Mars. Starship’s ability to meet these ambitious goals is critical to SpaceX’s long-term success which is built upon Elon Musk’s promise of multi-planetary human exploration. According to Musk’s email, Starship will also play a critical role in launching Starlink’s next-generation satellites into orbit.
Musk’s stressed-out email follows a tweet earlier this month where the CEO admitted the Raptor 2 would need a “complete design overhaul” to make multi-planetary life possible. Not long after that, two SpaceX vice presidents abruptly left the company according to CNBC. One of those executives, Will Heltsley, who had been at the company since 2009, was working on the Raptor project but was taken off due to a lack of progress.
The alarming news comes near the close of what’s been an otherwise stellar year for SpaceX. In 11 months SpaceX managed to launch 25 successful Falcon 9 missions, sent a dozen astronauts to space and drew a roadmap to mass commercialization with its Starlink satellite internet service.
You can read the full email over at The Verge.