In an internal email to employees, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that development of the Raptor rocket engine that will power the Super Heavy/Starship launch system is in “crisis,” adding the company risks bankruptcy if the company can’t turn the situation around, according to media reports.
The problems pose a risk not only to SpaceX and its multi-billion dollar Starlink satellite broadband program, but to Musk’s plans to colonize Mars and NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon. The U.S. space agency has awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a lunar lander based on the Starship vehicle.
SpaceX fired the first firing of its Raptor vacuum engine while integrated into a Starship vehicle. The engine is used in the vacuum of space.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk tweeted that Starship No. 20 could be ready for a suborbital flight next month. The vehicle would take off from Boca Chica, Texas and land in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
The flight is dependent upon approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, which is considering SpaceX’s plan to expand its Texas facility to accommodate launches of Starship and Super Heavy. FAA held two public hearings last week about the plan.
SpaceX is moving ahead with development of the Boca Chica site, which it has dubbed Starbase, despite a lack of approval from the FAA.
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (SSC PR) — Space Systems Command (SSC) is partnering with industry on prototype projects to invest in next-generation rocket engine testing and upper stage resiliency enhancements.
SSC’s Launch Enterprise today awarded FY21 prototype projects for Raptor Rapid Throttling and Restart Testing; Liquid Methane Specification Development and Testing; and Combustion Stability Analysis and Testing to SpaceX for $14.47 million, for Uplink Command and Control for Centaur V to United Launch Alliance for $24.35 million, for Upper Stage Development for Neutron to Rocket Lab for $24.35 million, and for Cryogenic Fluid Management for Glenn Stage 2 to Blue Origin for $24.35 million, under the National Security Space Launch program using the Space Development Corps’ Space Enterprise Consortium (SpEC).
Prototype projects for orbital transfer and maneuver are anticipated for award in early FY22, pending congressional approval of the FY22 budget request;