Elon Musk’s SpaceX Secret Satellite Failure Probed by Congress
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- SpaceX dealt blow as secret military satellite goes missing
Lawmakers said they will receive classified briefings on a secret US government satellite that apparently crashed into the sea after it was launched by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (a private company).
- In a heavy blow to SpaceX’s Y 2018 goals, the secretive 7 January launch, undertaking a government project code-named Zuma failed.
“The 1st statement by SpaceX was that the failure to achieve orbit was not theirs” so there’s no reason so far to question the company’s planned participation in NASA space projects, Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) a former astronaut and the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transport Committee, said Wednesday before being briefed.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket seemed to lift off successfully from the pad at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sunday carrying a classified payload in a mission code-named Zuma, but the satellite has gone missing.
The Defense Department and the Air Force have repeatedly referred questions to SpaceX.
“After review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly,” SpaceX COO, Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement Tuesday. If that’s confirmed by Defense Department investigators, it leaves open possibilities such as a failure in the coupling that was supposed to release the satellite from the rocket.
Tim Paynter, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Corp.(NYSE:NOC), which manufactured the satellite and chose SpaceX for the mission, declined to comment on the coupling, saying “we cannot comment on classified missions.”
Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama (R-AL), who heads the House Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee, said in a statement Wednesday that “space is a risky business” but his panel remains “committed to providing rigorous oversight that accounts for that risk and ensures that we can meet all of our national security space requirements as the Air Force looks to competitively procure space launch services in the future.”
Congressional inquiries into the satellite failure may revive debate about SpaceX’s rivalry for military contracts with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT)
Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who heads the panel that approves appropriations for NASA, said the lost satellite raises new questions about SpaceX contracts. Senator Shelby is a strong supporter of United Launch Alliance, which has operations in his state.
“The record shows they have promise, but they’ve had issues as a vendor,” Senator Shelby said Wednesday, referring to SpaceX. “United Launch, knock on wood, they havehad an outstanding record.”
United Launch Alliance was the sole provider for the Pentagon until Mr. Musk began a campaign in Congress and the courts during the Hussein Obama era challenging what he called an unfair monopoly. After an extensive Air Force review, SpaceX was certified in Y 2015 to compete for military launches
SpaceX is saying “‘everything performed as expected, it’s not our fault,”’ a senior analyst and director of space studies with the Teal Group, said. “The onus is on the Air Force or Grumman to prove otherwise,” he said.
He predicted SpaceX will probably proceed “with business as usual and try to keep with their very aggressive launch schedule.”
The Key word here is probably.
Again, Congressional inquiries into the satellite failure may revive debate about SpaceX’s rivalry for military contracts with United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT)