Ten members of Congress asked the Air Force to “reconsider certification of the [SpaceX] Falcon 9 rocket for national security missions” in a letter sent to the leaders of the USAF, NASA, and the FAA Thursday. The letter faults the investigations into the two Falcon 9 rocket explosions that have occurred within the last two years. The investigation into the June 2015 explosion was overseen by SpaceX and “lacked the openness taxpayers would expect before a return-to-flight,” according to the letter, which was signed by a number of the lawmakers who hail from Colorado or Alabama, where SpaceX’s competitor United Launch Alliance—a Lockheed Martin and Boeing consortium—has facilities. The letter requests that the investigation into the most recent, Sept. 1, explosion at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., be conducted by NASA and USAF “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.” In addition to destroying more than $300 million worth of cargo, lawmakers wrote SpaceX has “fallen short of ensuring reliable assured US? access to space.” Last week, the Space and Missiles Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif., told Air Force Magazine in an email that the service “has offered full support” after it was invited to observe and participate in the anomaly investigation process and will continue to monitor mission assurance before any National Security Space Launch. Asked whether the Sept. 1 mishap had any immediate impact on SpaceX’s status, the SMC responded that the service “has high confidence in SpaceX’s capabilities based on their 27 successful launches and ongoing certification activities.” SpaceX is scheduled to launch a GPS III satellite in May 2018, but the SMC said it’s too early to determine whether any future launch timelines will need to be pushed back.
Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and head of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, is pushing a “portfolio” approach to requirements and wants his position to have “more teeth” so he can enforce it.