U.S. Representative Coffman Urges USAF To Review SpaceX Rocket Failure

September 2, 2015 – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) recognized NASA for pursuing a review of the SpaceX Falcon 9 failure. He also voiced ongoing concern about the lack of a thorough investigation by the Air Force.

“This is an extremely serious issue,” continued Coffman. “While the SpaceX Falcon 9 exploded on an unmanned resupply mission, many in Congress are concerned that a similar failure may occur while carrying a national security payload. Such a failure could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and seriously jeopardize our national security and warfighting ability for years.”

In response to a July 30, 2015 letter from 19 members of Congress, National Air and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles Bolden confirmed that NASA is conducting an independent review of the data, findings, and results of SpaceX’s self-investigation. NASA is doing so to ensure that a truly thorough and appropriate analysis is delivered.

“I am pleased that NASA has decided to conduct an independent review. It is the only way to validate the results of an investigation performed by the company that built the rocket in the first place,” said Coffman.

NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) is assigned this task and according to an August 3, 2015 internal memo from Associate Administer for Human Exploration and Operations William Gerstenmaier, “NASA LSP has begun a series of independent analyses and evaluations that will lead to an in-depth understanding of the events by the government.” Mr. Gerstenmaier further stated “LSP should serve the function of the independent review team for NASA for this investigation.”

“An independent NASA review of the SpaceX mishap is welcome news to Congress. However, it still falls short of the actions NASA took immediately after the 28 October 2014 failure of an Orbital ATK Antares launch,” continued Coffman.

After the Orbital ATK Antares launch failure NASA established a formal independent review team. Additionally, unlike the Antares investigation, NASA does not have a full voting representative on SpaceX’s accident investigation board. Coffman pointed out that both SpaceX and Orbital ATK have contracts for future NASA payloads and using a different process to investigate the SpaceX launch failure is confusing.

“While NASA has clearly engaged in the investigation on the SpaceX failure, if perhaps not to the extent expected, the US Air Force has declined to assume any independent role in the investigation of the SpaceX failure,” continued Coffman. “This apparently ‘hands-off’ approach by the Air Force prompted the July 30th letter signed by 19 members of Congress. I remain extremely concerned that the lack of a thorough investigation will lead to future military launch mishaps.”

Coffman remains a leading advocate for an independent review of the SpaceX Falcon 9 failure and was recently joined by the Chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep Lamar Smith, in calling for an independent review.