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Astronautic launch services provider and equipment manufacturer Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is rumored to be gearing up for another funding round, suggests a report that surfaced earlier today. SpaceX, which raised roughly $2 billion in an August funding round, was said to be valued at roughly $44 billion at the time by investment firm Baron Capital - who disclosed a $27 million stake in the company. The latest funding round is said to more than double this amount, with the Hawthorne, California-based company aiming at a $96 billion valuation.
Successful Starship Prototype Test Motivates SpaceX To Push For Another Capital Raise?
While SpaceX is famous for its relanding first stage rocket boosters, its true crown jewel is thought by many to be the Starlink internet constellation. This constellation, which intends to operate as many as ten thousand small satellites at low altitudes, aims to provide internet access to rural America and overcome the barriers that current terrestrial broadband service providers face when deploying their services to far-flung regions.
The rumor of a new funding round comes
courtesy of Trade The News, courtesy of BusinessInsider with the publication providing little details except for the alleged intent of a funding round and the near $100 billion valuation.
It comes just as SpaceX successfully tested a spacecraft prototype of its Starship launch vehicle platform last week. The prototype, dubbed SN8, intends to validate the design for the upper stage of the platform which will house astronauts during their future lunar missions and deploy payloads - including the Starlink satellites - to orbit.
Riding high on its success, SpaceX was quick to seek permission for another prototype test, SN9, from authorities in Texas. However, the permission granted for Monday went to waste as the test vehicle was damaged in its storage facility as it tipped and damaged its aft (rear/bottom) fins on Friday.
The SN8 test flight was near complete success as SpaceX not only managed to reach the desired altitude but it also 'flipped' the spacecraft and managed to switch the fuel feeding the vehicle's Raptor full-flow staged-combustion methane-fuelled rocket engines from the primary tanks to the secondary tank located at the top of the vehicle.
However, this shift didn't succeed fully as before it landed, fuel supply to the rocket engine seemed to have been disrupted. This resulted in the Raptor emitting green flames as its Liquid Oxygen oxidizer started to melt the engine's copper components. The reasons behind this malfunction are best known only to SpaceX, but it is possible (pure speculation on our end) that perhaps the problem occurred due to inadequate pressurization in the secondary header tank.
For its Merlin 1D engines on the Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX pressurizes the vehicle's fuel tanks by injecting them with hot helium gas. This gas is also used to cool down the Merlin engines and it flows to the tanks after it has passed through Merlin's nozzles and removed the heat from them, and prevented them from melting. Given that the Raptor also uses a similar mechanism for cooling, confirmed by SpaceX C.E.O. Mr. Elon Musk, a drop in fuel tank pressurization could have caused fuel to stop flowing to the Raptor engine's pumps and combustion chambers.
SpaceX's last capital run came in August when the company raised $1.9 billion and grew the list of its total investors to 75. Starship, while best known for its integral part in SpaceX's plans of making humanity an interplanetary species, will play an equally important plan in deploying the Starlink satellites - the business that Morgan Stanley believes is worth ~$81 billion in the long run.
Over the course of this year, SpaceX has launched 833 of these satellites - and should it continue at this rate with only the Falcon 9, then it will take more than ten years for the cancellation to fully deploy – a timeline that mirrors the investment bank's estimate for Starlink turning a profit.
However, if Starship becomes operational then SpaceX plans to launch up to 400 satellites at a time or roughly half of what it deployed this year. This will move the service's profitability timeline forward and allow SpaceX to rapidly build out the constellation. Following SpaceX chief operating officer Ms. Gwynne Shotwell's comments in February, that it was possible for SpaceX to spin-off Starlink and take it public, Musk denied any such plans and stated that the chances of such an occurrence were "zero". His comments came in May as he also speculated that SpaceX could earn $30 billion annually from the satellite service.
The executive also moved forward Starship's first Mars landing timeline by two years to 2022, with his previous timeline predicting high volume flights for the launch system in the same year.
Updated on December 15, 2020 14:18 with correct source link and new image.