Musk: “SpaceX bankruptcy a genuine risk”
December 1, 2021
By Chris Forrester
Elon Musk has admitted in a memo to staff that problems with his massive Starship places SpaceX into a “genuine risk of bankruptcy”. SpaceX has let go a number of senior executives and adding that development work on the crucial Raptor engines has created a “disaster” for the company.
“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,” Musk said in his note.
“We face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year,” he added in the memo which was sent before the Thanksgiving holiday, and appealed to staff to abandon Thanksgiving plans and to turn up for work.
The Starship rocket is needed to launch in extra-large numbers the SpaceX Starlink broadband satellites. A batch of more than 50 will be orbited today (December 1st) using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
Tim Farrar, of TMF Associates, responded to the news by putting out a series of stinging Tweets about Musk and his two key projects: the Starlink broadband by satellite scheme and also the SpaceX massive Starship-to-Mars aim.
Farrar, who is a highly regarded industry analyst, said that Musk’s plan to launch two Starships each week next year “is not going to happen”.
He added: “And we are probably a year away from having [Starlink Version 2] FCC approval, and it will take well over a year to finish off the 4400 V1 constellation [of Starlink craft].”
“The suggestion that “Starlink will deliver universal coverage as a matter of course” is false. Not only is there a severe lack of capacity (which can’t just be addressed by more satellites given the spectrum re-use limits) but any house with tall trees to the north is screwed,” he states bluntly.
Farrar explained: “If you are planning to produce “several million” [Starlink] terminals per year, that implies a steady state subscriber base of ~10M subs from 30,000 Version 2 satellites. Current V1 capacity (with fewer subscribers per sat since Ku-band only and ~1500 usable satellites) likely a few 100,000s. Full V1 CONUS capacity may only be ~500,000 subscribers.”