Pentagon Inspector General to Examine USAF Certification of Falcon 9

Falcon 9 lifts off on Spaceflight SSO-A mission. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

Bloomberg reports that the Pentagon’s inspector general is going to review the U.S. Air Force’s certification process for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

“Our objective is to determine whether the U.S. Air Force complied with the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide when certifying the launch system design for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle-class SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles,” the inspector general said in a memo to Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson sent on Monday.

The Air Force’s certification of SpaceX in 2015 allowed the company take on military payloads, bringing competition to military space launches that were being handled solely by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between top defense contractors Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. At the time, Musk said he was getting into the business in part to end a monopoly…

The memo to Wilson was signed by Michael Roark, deputy for intelligence and special program assessments. It didn’t give a reason for what prompted the evaluation. Bruce Anderson, a spokesman for the inspector general, didn’t have an immediate comment as to what led to the evaluation.

  • Robert G. Oler

    they are upset with SpaceX safety program

  • Vladislaw

    “they” Why not provide an actual NAME that can allow a confirmation of the claim?

  • Terry Stetler

    It’s more likely blowback after Sen. Feinstein firmly whacked USAF for not funding SpaceX under EELV 2. Probably with a nudge by Sen. Shelby.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yep, it is just to protect the pork flows. Gotta keep ULA in business.

  • Robert G. Oler

    because then I would not get any more information from them.

  • Robert G. Oler

    there was no whacking…everyone knows why SpaceX didnt get any money…she just did that

  • duheagle

    The Empire Strikes Back

  • Saturn1300

    If SpaceX had heated the COPV till it carbonized like the Shuttle LE it would not failed. If it was thick enough. Shotwell said they must have changed loading. They went back to the old way and no failures. They must have loaded the helium 1st. Instead of the LOX and pressurizing the LOX. The pressure from the LOX added enough strength to the COPV so it could take the pressure. When it was not there it blew up. All they have to do is put more layers of carbon fiber over it and carbonize(makes it a 1 piece as if a solid.) I said the liner failed. Would not make any difference. Solid. Gas could not go through. Just too weak.

  • Robert G. Oler

    I dont think that is the issue

  • Is the information confidential? It seems to me that if you aren’t *allowed* to name your sources, then you are probably leaking confidential information.

  • Why should we take your “sources” seriously if you aren’t willing to actually name any?

  • Robert G. Oler

    allowed….no .

    but I dont burn sources…that is why I am more informed then you are

  • duheagle

    Sources? He don’t got no sources! He don’t have to show you no stinkin’ sources!

  • redneck

    Are you trying to imply that imaginary sources aren’t real?

  • windbourne

    Ok, I understand about keeping sources quiet. And a friend does not want to ratted on.
    BUT, you can tell us the issues that they have.

  • duheagle

    Well, imaginary sources are, pretty much by definition, not real, but I don’t necessarily think RGO’s sources are nonexistent.

    It would be nice to have some approximate idea of where his talkative-out-of-school blue-suiters are situated within USAF though. The military, like all other human institutions, is going to be rife with gossip covering the entire spectrum of accuracy. I would be more inclined to give credence to someone hailing from, say, L.A. AFB in El Segundo than to someone who works in, say, airlift.

    That is because other media report that the people detailed to carry out this investigation are those very folks at L.A. AFB where the USAF Space and Missile Systems Command is HQ’d. Complicating matters further, these are also the same people who spent 14 months in 2014-15 shining flashlights up SpaceX’s backside and ultimately granted the EELV certifications to both F9 and, later, FH.

    In most instances, a government body investigating its own past actions would not be accorded much credit for independence. In this case, there may well ave been no alternative as I’m unaware of any other part of USAF with the technical ability to do this newly mandated review.

    My opinion is that the anonymous nature of the complaint probably indicates the I.G. office truckled to some senior politico hostile to SpaceX – gee, I wonder who that could be. In that case, the ultimate outcome of the review is probably not really so important – the process is intended as the punishment and as a not at all subtle reminder that its instigator can run this same play again – and again. In any event, a finding that upholds the certifications can be dismissed by critics as self-dealing by SMSC. A finding against the certifications would probably indicate that the unknown complainant has managed to stack the deck at SMSC with enough of his own partisans since 2015 to get a desired verdict in this show trial.

  • duheagle

    I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting on that one.

  • publiusr

    Make sure no one is paid under the table.