SpaceX wants to send humans to Mars, but forces on Earth could hamper its plans.
On Tuesday, CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to warn that a “severe global recession” could trigger a perfect storm of issues for the company. If it came while SpaceX was investing money into its Mars-bound Starship rocket and its Starlink internet service, then bankruptcy “while still unlikely, is not impossible.”
It’s a tough time for SpaceX’s ongoing Starship project, which aims to develop a fully-reusable rocket capable of sending the first humans to Mars. Its use of liquid oxygen and methane as fuel would enable humans to use the planet’s resources to harvest more fuel and either return home or venture out further. The ship is capable of transporting 100 people or 100 tons to space at a time.
SpaceX will start making money from Starship once it’s completed and flying payloads for customers — until then, the company will have to pour money into its development.
The company is not the only one that wants Starship to be a success, as NASA has chosen the Starship as the human lander for its upcoming crewed Artemis mission to the Moon in 2025. Due to its current financial position, SpaceX will also appreciate its $2.9 billion NASA contract as a source of funding to complete the Starship.
The comments come after a Thanksgiving email sent to SpaceX employees, where Musk declared that production of the Starship’s Raptor engine faced a crisis.
“The Raptor production crisis is much worse than it seemed a few weeks ago,” Musk wrote in the email obtained by CNBC. “We face genuine risk of bankruptcy if we cannot achieve a Starship flight rate of at least once every two weeks next year.”
This may suggest a higher goal than previous comments. Last month, at the joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Board on Physics and Astronomy, Musk outlined three primary goals for the coming year:
- Complete the launch pad, tower, and basic tests before the end of 2021
- Host a 90-minute orbital flight with the Starship and its booster in January
- Host around a dozen test flights over the course of 2022
That would set up Starship to fly real, non-test payloads as early as 2023. From there, the goal is to send the first humans to Mars in the 2020s and establish a city on Mars by 2050.
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