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In brief: Over the weekend, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk internally outlined a critical situation regarding engine production for its rockets. Production issues seem to be putting its Starship project and Starlink satellite internet service in jeopardy, and Musk admits the possibility of bankruptcy if these problems aren't solved.
According to a Thanksgiving companywide email leaked to CNBC and Space Explored this week, the crisis with the production of Raptor engines is worse than Musk had earlier realized. The SpaceX exec ended up canceling his planned Thanksgiving break, requesting all hands on deck to fix what he calls "a disaster."
The problem seems to concern whether SpaceX can get engine production on track to support the satellite launches necessary for its Starlink internet service. SpaceX developed the Raptor engines to power its "Starship" rockets. The company aims to use Starship for a 2023 lunar mission and eventually to send humans to Mars. However, its short-term goal is to use Starship to launch the satellites for Starlink.
Musk explains in the email that SpaceX is ramping up the production of terminals Starlink customers will use to access the internet. SpaceX's plans to build millions of units per year will suck up "massive capital" and will be useless unless the company can get enough satellites in orbit.
"What it comes down to is that we face a genuine risk of bankruptcy if we can't achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year," Musk wrote.
Last week, CNBC reported that two SpaceX vice presidents in charge of rocket production had left. Sources said lack of progress led to SpaceX Vice President of Propulsion Will Heltsley's removal from Raptor development. SpaceX Vice President of Mission and Launch Operations Lee Rosen also left in November, as did Senior Director of Mission and Launch Operations Ricky Lim. All three had been with the company for years.