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Elon Musk says ongoing ‘crisis’ could bankrupt SpaceX

Written by: Leonard Parker | Houston Business News | November 30, 2021

A fretful Elon Musk sent an email to the SpaceX staff on Black Friday over a “production crisis” that he says has put the company in dire straits.

The email was first obtained by Space Explored, and later by CNBC and the Verge, and details a litany of woes delaying the production of the Raptor engine, an integral component for the much-hyped Starship rockets.

“Unfortunately, the Raptor production crisis is much worse than it had seemed a few weeks ago,” Musk wrote in the Friday email, detailing issues that “turned out to be far more severe than was reported.”

He lays out financial concerns over the development of the engine and its effects on the manufacturing of both Starship and the Starlink broadband internet satellites.

“There is no way to sugarcoat this,” he added.

Musk also noted that despite plans to take a weekend off, his “first weekend off in a long time,” but vowed to work through the night and the entire weekend.

He also required SpaceX employees to do the same, “unless [they] have critical family matters or cannot physically return to Hawthorne,” where SpaceX headquarters is located.

Much is at stake for Musk and SpaceX after a momentous 2021. Earlier this year, SpaceX received a nearly $3 billion contract from NASA for the use of Starship on the Artemis III moon landing mission, prompting a lawsuit from Jeff Bezos' venture, Blue Origin. CNBC also reported that Musk promised an orbital Starship flight early next year.

“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,” the email concluded.

But for what it's worth, Space Explored, which broke the news, said not to take "Elon’s mention of bankruptcy at face value," and instead framed the panic as Musk's desire to put pressure on his employees to keep going on an "ambitious path." Only time will tell if this evaluation is apt.