Capitalism in space: Based on all the reports I’ve read, Elon Musk this past weekend did a major shake-up of the management that was running the Raptor engine development, apparently focused on the need to be able to mass produce these engines at a very high rate to allow numerous test flights in the coming year.
More here, including this company email from Musk:
Unfortunately, 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.
I was going to take this weekend off, as my first weekend off in a long time, but instead, I will be on the Raptor line all night and through the weekend.
The management shakeup was as follows:
This ‘senior management’ that left is likely referring to Will Heltsley, former SpaceX senior vice president of propulsion. As CNBC reported, he left Raptor production due to a lack of progress. In addition, former SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operation Lee Rosen and senior director of mission and launch operations Rick Lim have left the company. Raptor engine production is now being led by Jacob Mackenzie, who has been with the company for over six years.
The reports imply that the engine itself is in trouble, but I do not think that is the issue. Instead, as Musk has said many times, more important than developing new technology is developing the efficient manufacturing processes that will allow the company to take advantage of that technology. It appears the manufacturing part of Raptor had not been covered well by the now disposed management.
SpaceX not only needs a working reliable Raptor engine, it needs to be able to mass produce them in the hundreds, quickly. This is the challenge that apparently the previous management failed to face. Musk is now refocusing Raptor development around this need.
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