Elon Musk’s Conundrum: When, And If, To Take SpaceX Public?

Elon Musk SpaceX

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) chief Mr. Elon Musk cautioned employees about the vast fluctuations of the stock market in an email dated from 2013. The email addressed employee concerns about missing out on share price growth due to the company being kept private, and in it, the executive covered several topics, which included fears about the company being targeted by short-sellers and operating costs. At the time, SpaceX had freshly launched the Falcon 9, and the company’s partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was in its early stages.



The letter reveals Musk’s thoughts about conducting a public offering of SpaceX’s shares, and when combined with the company’s current projects, shows how he might not have the complete luxury of choice in the matter.

SpaceX Was Burning Close To $900 Million In Costs In 2013 As It Got Falcon 9 Off The Ground

The eight-year-old email provides insights into SpaceX’s operating costs at the time and Musk’s rationale for not listing the company’s shares on the public market. Rumors and speculation for a SpaceX initial public offering (IPO) are uncommon these days, but they are not absent either. These days they focus on the company’s Starlink satellite constellation, operated by a SpaceX subsidiary, and the rumors often speculate about the company selling the shares for its internet subsidiary to the general public.



In his email, Musk explained to SpaceX’s employees the volatility present in the stock market and how it would compound with the risky nature of SpaceX’s business. In 2013, the company was developing the second generation of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. This vehicle, dubbed as the Falcon 9 v1.1, took to the skies in September 2013, and it featured several upgrades such as new engines and more propellants.

When the email was sent, SpaceX was also recovering from a scare involving its Dragon spacecraft. The company’s second Dragon spacecraft, which docked with the International Space Station (ISS) in early March of 2013, developed problems that initially appeared to be serious enough to jeopardize the mission but successfully became the first commercial vehicle to deliver unpressurized cargo to the space station.

Elon Musk SpaceX

Crucially, Musk also highlights that it would be unfeasible to take SpaceX public before it has developed a transport system capable of Martian missions. He ties this decision with the riskiness of the company’s product development, explaining that any “anomaly on the rocket or spacecraft” would “result in severe punishment” on the stock market.

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