Elon Says SpaceX Risks Bankruptcy Without a Raptor Engine Solution

Elon Musk emailed SpaceX employees that there is a crisis in Starship Raptor engine production. SpaceX could face a ‘genuine risk of bankruptcy’ if they cannot achieve Starship flight rate of once every two weeks in 2022.

Elon emailed:
Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it had seemed a few weeks ago. As we have dug into the issues following the exiting of 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.

Will Heltsley, former SpaceX senior vice president of propulsion, left SpaceX due to lack of Raptor production progress. SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operation Lee Rosen and senior director of mission and launch operations Rick Lim have left SpaceX.

Enough reliable Raptors are needed to fly Starship. Starship is needed for Starlink Satellite V2. SpaceX Falcon 9 has neither the volume nor the mass to orbit needed for satellite V2. Satellite V1 is financially weak, while V2 is strong.

SpaceX will put up Gen2 satellite network with satellites 850-1000 kilogram with up to 80 gbps capacity per satellite versus 18 gbps in current version 1. Gen2 satellites are five times bigger but have five times the capacity of Gen1 Starlink staellites.

~30,000 satellite Starlink Gen2 constellation as proposed would have a total instantaneous bandwidth of at least 500 terabits per second (Tbps) overland (~1800 Tbps including ocean coverage). As of 2020, the total installed bandwidth of global internet infrastructure was estimated to be 600 Tbps. The Gen2 satellite network would be able to handle 15 times the number of customers which would be 15 times the revenue of the Gen1 satellite network.

Assuming Starship is capable of launching 100-150 tons (~220,000-330,000 lb) to the low Earth orbits Starlink Gen2 is targeting, each Starship will launch up to 120 satellites – each weighing approximately 850-1250 kg. SpaceX’s original June 2020 Gen2 filing implied that the next generation of Starlink satellites would have up to three times the maximum bandwidth of existing V1.0 satellites (~50+ Gbps).

SpaceX is ramping terminal production to several million units per year, which will consume massive capital. This assumes that satellite V2 will be on orbit to handle the bandwidth demand. These terminals will be useless otherwise.

Elon might have recently been selling Tesla shares to help fund SpaceX through a rough patch.

SpaceX was still getting waivers and permission from the FCC to launch the Gen2 constellation. Jeff Bezos, Amazon and Blue Origin were using lawsuits and regulatory challenges to slow SpaceX deployment of Starlink.

The first orbital launch is scheduled for January, 2022. Starship was delayed several months already. FCC permissions were needed. There have also been heat shield tile issues.

SpaceX still needed to launch ten thousand more Gen1 Starlink satellites. SpaceX had talked about 12 Starship test launches next year at a recent conference. Elon was probably targeting one payload launch every two weeks starting in early 2023. Starship Starlink launches would be 6000 more Starlink Gen1 version 2 satellites in 2023. Thirty or forty Falcon 9 Starlink launches would be 1800 to 2400 more Gen 1 version 2 satellites in 2022 and 2023.

Gen 2 would not be approved and ready til about 2023 or 2024. 2023 would be when they could use Starship to complete Gen 1, twelve thousand satellites.

Elon wants to urgently resolve the Raptor engine production issues and Starship issues to prevent delays late in 2022 or in 2023.

Starship being usablefor payloads in 2023 would be able to speed up Starlink Gen1 deployment from 2025 to early 2023. Starship being ready in 2022 would enable significant Gen 2 deployment in 2023-2024.

SOURCES- spaceexplored.com, Elon Musk, SpaceX, FCC
Written by Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com