Congressmen Seek Answers on SpaceX Falcon 9 Failures

Credit: USLaunchReport.com
Credit: USLaunchReport.com

A group 10 Republican Congressmen have sent a letter to NASA, the U.S. Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) seeking answers about the failures of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicles over the past 15 months.

“While the cost of the payloads lost in the explosions is troubling — $118M of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) cargo destined for the International Space Station and a $195M AMOS-6 communications satellite — the more troubling issue is what these failures mean for crewed commercial spaceflight and national security space launch,” the letter states. “These failures could have spelled disaster, even loss of life, had critical national security payloads or NASA crew been aboard those rockets.”

The four-page letter, authored by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), said the loss of the Falcon 9s raised questions about the U.S. Air Force’s decision to certify the booster to launch national security payloads.

“Both SpaceX failures occurred after the Air Force certified the Falcon 9 launch vehicle for U.S. national security launches, less than fifteen months ago,” the letter reads. “The certification, designed to subject the Falcon 9’s design and manufacturing processes to a review of their technical and manufacturing rigor, appears to have fallen short of ensuring reliable assured U.S. access to space for our most important payloads.”

Air Force officials have said Falcon 9’s certification was not impacted by the two accidents. The first failure occurred in flight, while the second happened while a Falcon 9 was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. Both accidents involved failures in the second stage.

The Congressmen also suggested it is a mistake to allow SpaceX to lead the investigation into its own accidents.

“We feel strongly that the current investigation should be led by NASA and the Air Force to ensure that proper investigative engineering rigor is applied and that the outcomes are sufficient to prevent NASA and military launch mishaps in the future,” the letter reads.

The letter also was signed by Reps. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Scott Tipton (R-Colo.), Earl “Buddy” Carter (R-Ga.), Blake Farenthold (R-Texas), David Jolly (R-Fla.) and Steve Russell (R-Okla.).