Elon Musk reportedly said SpaceX faces the 'risk of bankruptcy' from a lack of Starship engine progress

Elon Musk reportedly said SpaceX faces the 'risk of bankruptcy' from a lack of Starship engine progress
Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Elon Musk told SpaceX employees that a lack of progress on engines created a "risk of bankruptcy."
  • He expressed the concern about the Raptor engines in a companywide memo on Friday, CNBC reported.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reportedly said in a company memo that its Raptor program was in "crisis" and suggested it posed a major threat to the space venture.

Musk said in the memo — sent on Friday and obtained by CNBC's Michael Sheetz — that he was upset with the lack of progress on the Raptor engines that power its Starship rocket. Space Explored first reported the news.

"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.

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

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


Musk said in November that SpaceX planned to launch Starship into orbit by January or February, but Raptor engine production appears to be lagging.

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

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

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

Musk's email came shortly after Will Heltsley, SpaceX's vice president of propulsion, left the company. Last week, CNBC reported that Heltsley had been moved off the Raptor program because of a lack of progress. Earlier in November, Musk tweeted that Raptor engines required "a complete design overhaul."


Read more from Musk's email over on CNBC.

Do you work for SpaceX? Reach out to this reporter from a nonwork email at gkay@insider.com.