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NASA Promised a Public Report on CRS-7 Failure Multiple Times

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 24, 2017
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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

My recent report on NASA decision not to release a public summary of its investigation into the Falcon 9 failure that destroyed a Dragon cargo ship has attracted some attention on various other websites. I’ve gotten some criticism there and also here for not understanding that the results of NASA’s investigations on commercial crew are confidential.

Fair enough. However, I was never told this by NASA in my multiple communications with the agency when I inquired about the summary last fall. In fact, they represented exactly the opposite.

Just so there is no confusion on this point, I’m reproducing the email responses I received from NASA when I inquired about this issue last fall as well as the one I received earlier in July.

The exchange begin with my initial email last September followed by NASA’s response. The space agency’s responses when I sought subsequent updates in the months that followed are reproduced.

I’m not including my subsequent emails requesting updates because they are repetitious and don’t add anything. I have emphasized sentences in two responses by putting them in bold.

First Inquiry by Parabolic Arc
September 15, 2016

The Launch Services Program conducted an investigation into the failure of the Falcon 9 during the CRS-7 mission in June 2015.

Has this investigation been released? If not, why not?  Is a release date anticipated?

Would it be possible to send me a copy of the investigation?

Thank you.


NASA Response
September 16, 2016

Hi Doug,

Thanks for reaching out. Let me check on whether the report from the investigation has been completed. We expect to have a summary with publicly releasable information when it is complete, but the report itself won’t be released since it contains information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information.

NASA Response, Second Inquiry
October 21, 2016

Doug, I do not have a  date at this time as the report is still in work. Here’s an updated statement:

NASA completed an independent analysis of the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap in support of high-value payload launches planned under the NASA Launch Services II contract. In accordance with the NLS II contract, the NASA Launch Services Program reviewed SpaceX’s readiness to launch the Jason-3 mission and led an independent investigation of the incident as part of the Flight Readiness Review process. The Launch Services Program independent investigation yielded an in-depth understanding of the mishap event; consequently, NASA’s final report on its investigation into the SpaceX CRS-7 mission is still in work. The official report of the independent review team contains information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA will provide a summary of publicly releasable information when the final report is completed.

I hope it helps.

NASA Response, Third Inquiry
December 6, 2016

NASA’s final report on the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap is still in work. While the report is important in providing NASA historical data of the mishap, the accident involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket that is no longer in use. Furthermore, while the public summary itself may only be a few pages, the complete report is expected to exceed several hundred pages of highly detailed and technical information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA anticipates its internal report and public summary will be finalized in the summer 2017.

NASA Response, Fourth Inquiry
July 11, 2017

Hi again. Summer was the best information I had in December. I do not have an estimate for when a formal report or public summary will be finalized. As you know, SpaceX CRS-7 was an FAA licensed flight and the FAA was responsible for overseeing the mishap investigation. NASA had full access to the data, was a part of the SpaceX investigation, and then conducted its own independent review of the incident. The Launch Services Program team briefed its results to NASA leadership in December 2015 (ahead of the Jason-3 mission in January 2016). Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time. The data is important for historical purposes, but the mishap involved a version of the Falcon 9 rocket, the version 1.1, that is now no longer in use.

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