SpaceX rocket business leadership shakes up as two VPs depart

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  • The leadership of SpaceX’s rocket business has been shaken, CNBC has learned, including the departure of two vice presidents.
  • SpaceX’s vice president of propulsion Will Heltsley has left, several people familiar with the position told CNBC, having been with the company since 2009.
  • SpaceX’s vice president of mission and launch operations, Lee Rosen, left last week, the sources said, joining the company in 2013.

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The leadership of SpaceX’s rocket business has been shaken, CNBC has learned, as two vice presidents have parted ways with the company.

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The changes come with Elon Musk’s space company now the major US rocket maker with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles. The company is also investing heavily in the development of its next-generation Starship rocket.

SpaceX’s vice president of propulsion Will Heltsley has left, several people familiar with the position told CNBC, having been with the company since 2009. Those said Heltsley was put off from development of the Raptor engine due to a lack of progress. The Raptor engine powers SpaceX’s Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster.

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Heltsley’s departure represents a great deal of pressure on engine development, given its key role in Starship’s success. The company has successfully carried out several test firings and flights with the Raptor, improving the engine. Musk recently said that the second generation of the Raptor engine has “significant improvements in every way.”

“But a complete design overhaul is necessary for the engine that could truly make life a multiplanet. It won’t be called the Raptor,” Musk said in a tweet. November 16,

SpaceX’s Jacob McKenzie, who has been with the company for more than six years, is now leading Raptor engine development and production, the sources said.

Lee Rosen, SpaceX vice president of mission and launch operations, left last week, said People, along with 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 for comment on the leadership change.

Some other longtime employees were laid off after SpaceX closed its buyout offer on Friday, at which time people familiar with the matter indicated that employees’ stock vesting was tied to the schedule. While SpaceX did not raise new capital in the secondary sale, the round was done at $560 per share – raising the company’s valuation to $100.3 billion.

SpaceX has had a banner year: the company has launched 25 successful Falcon 9 missions, carried 12 astronauts into orbit with its Dragon capsule, expanded its Starlink satellite internet service to nearly 140,000 users, and with Starship continued to make progress.

Musk said last week that SpaceX will “hopefully” begin its first orbital Starship flight in January or February, which represents the next major milestone in the rocket’s development. The launch is pending regulatory approval by the FAA as well as technical readiness.

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