SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Denies Subsidizing Rocket Launches, Highlights Starship’s Biggest Risk for Fourth Test

Ahead of the fourth highly anticipated Starship test flight scheduled for June 5th, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has refuted claims that the company is subsidizing ride share and other missions with its Falcon 9 rockets. Musk’s rebuttal comes after a rival firm’s CEO alleged that SpaceX was undercutting competition by selling rocket launches below cost.

Musk emphasized the importance of flight tests in making Starship reusable, pointing out a potential risk for the upcoming IFT-4 test. During Starship’s third test flight earlier this year, viewers were treated to stunning views of the second stage spacecraft’s atmospheric reentry, which was engulfed in a bright red plasma. However, the feed was lost after reentry, with SpaceX confirming the loss of the ship. The Starship stack, consisting of the second-stage Starship on the Super Heavy booster, features a heat shield made of thousands of tiles designed by SpaceX.

The heat shield has been a challenging component for SpaceX, with reports of tiles falling off the rocket during static tests and liftoff. Musk denied running Falcon 9’s ride share launch missions at a loss, stating that none of the missions had lost money based on his knowledge. He also highlighted the heat shield as the “biggest remaining problem” for making Starship fully reusable, emphasizing the need for a new supply chain to produce cost-effective components.

Musk explained that discovering weak points in the heat shield through flight tests is crucial, as seen in the firm’s previous experience with the Crew Dragon launch in 2020. SpaceX aims to achieve controlled Starship reentry in the upcoming IFT-4 test, requiring the heat shield to withstand the atmospheric forces. Musk stressed the need for multiple attempts to solve the heat shield challenges and ensure the success of Starship’s reusability.