Elon Musk’s leadership at SpaceX is shaken up as two VPs leave

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule at Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on November 9, 2021 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Joe Radl | Getty Images

As it became known to CNBC, the leadership of SpaceX’s rocket business was shaken after two vice presidents parted with the company.

The change comes with Elon Musk’s space company, which is now the leading rocket scientist in the United States with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets. The company is also investing heavily in the development of its next generation Starship rocket.

SpaceX’s vice president of propulsion, Will Heltsley, has stepped down, several people familiar with the situation told CNBC, having worked with the company since 2009. These folks said Heltsley was barred from developing Raptor engines due to a lack of progress. The Raptor engines power the SpaceX Starship rocket and super-heavy boosters.

Heltsley’s departure demonstrates strong pressure on the engine’s development given the key role it plays in Starship’s success. The company has successfully completed many test launches and flights with the Raptor, constantly improving the engine. Musk recently said the second generation Raptor engine “has significant improvements in every way.”

“But a complete overhaul of the design of the engine is needed, which can truly make life multi-planetary. It won’t be called Raptor, ”Musk said on Twitter at November 16

Sources said SpaceX’s Jacob Mackenzie, who has been with the company for more than six years, is currently leading the development and production of the Raptor engines.

Take a closer look at the 29 Raptor motors underneath the Super Heavy Booster 4 base.


Lee Rosen, SpaceX’s vice president of missions and launches, left last week, People say, as well as Ricky Lim, senior director of missions and launches. Rosen has worked at SpaceX since 2013, and Lim joined the company in 2008.

SpaceX did not respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the leadership change.

A handful of other longtime employees left after SpaceX closed its buyout offer on Friday, a time at which people familiar with the matter pointed out was partly tied to employee share distribution schedules. While SpaceX did not raise new capital on a resale, the round was held at $ 560 a share, raising the company’s valuation to $ 100.3 billion.

SpaceX has had a landmark year as the company has launched 25 successful Falcon 9 missions, placed 12 astronauts with Dragon capsules into orbit, expanded its Starlink satellite internet service to approximately 140,000 users, and continued to make progress with Starship.

Musk said last week that SpaceX “hopes” to launch its first Starship orbital flight in January or February, the next major milestone in rocket development. This launch is pending FAA regulatory approval as well as technical readiness.

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