The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on November 9, 2021 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
SpaceX’s missile business leadership was shaken, CNBC learned, when two vice presidents split from the company.
The changes come with me Elon Musks Space company now the leading US missile builder with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles. The company is also investing heavily in the development of its next-generation Starship missile.
SpaceX’s vice president of propulsion Will Heltsley has left the company, several people familiar with the situation told CNBC who have been with the company since 2009. These people said Heltsley was removed from Raptor engine development due to a lack of progress. The Raptor engines power the Starship rocket and Super Heavy boosters from SpaceX.
Heltsley’s departure shows the tremendous pressure on the engine’s development given the key role it plays in Starship’s success. The company has successfully carried out a large number of test ignitions and flights with the Raptor and has continuously improved the engine. Musk recently said that a second generation Raptor engine “has significant improvements in all respects.”
“But the engine that can actually make life multiplanetar requires a complete design overhaul. It won’t be called the Raptor,” Musk said in a tweet on November 16.
SpaceX’s Jacob McKenzie, who has been with the company for more than six years, now leads Raptor engine development and manufacturing, sources said.
A closer look under the base of Super Heavy Booster 4 on the 29 Raptor engines.
Lee Rosen, SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operations, left last week, people said, as did Ricky Lim, senior director of Mission and Launch Operations. Rosen had been with SpaceX since 2013, while Lim joined the company in 2008.
SpaceX did not respond to CNBC’s request to comment on the leadership changes.
A handful of other long-time employees left the company after SpaceX closed its offer to buy on Friday. While SpaceX did not raise any new capital on the secondary sale, the round closed at $ 560 per share – Company valuation increased to $ 100.3 billion.
SpaceX has had a great year: the company launched 25 successful Falcon 9 missions, put 12 astronauts into orbit with its Dragon capsules, expanded its Starlink satellite internet service to approximately 140,000 users, and made further advances with Starship.
Musk said last week SpaceX will “hopefully” launch its first orbital Starship flight in January or February, which represents the next major milestone in the development of the rocket. This start is still pending regulatory approval from the FAA and technical readiness.