NASA to Review SpaceX’s Frat House Attitude
Here at Automology, we are facing a little conundrum. As you may know, we are sponsored by X-1R, a company with very close and historic links with NASA. We also seem to love to write about Elon Musk and SpaceX. Now, according to a report in the Washington Post (see full story here), NASA will conduct an extensive safety review of Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing, the two companies that are contracted to fly astronauts to the international space station and perhaps Mars.
Of course, Musk is very much the rockstar of the tech world, famed for playing as hard as he works. He dates celebrities, sends ill-advised tweets and even dared to smoke marijuana on a recent podcast. This is perhaps why he has a legion of fans. But it is this very behaviour that NASA is worried could ultimately jeopardise astronaut safety.
The review, scheduled to begin early next year, will examine everything and anything that may risk human life to ensure that both companies are meeting NASA’s exacting requirements for workplace excellence and safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment. According to the report in the Washington Post, a number of sources have said that the probe is a direct result of Musk’s recent and by now infamous behaviour on the Josh Rogan podcast.
The process will be pretty invasive, according to reports, with hundreds of interviews to be carried out at all levels of the company. This will be a big worry to SpaceX investors. The contract with NASA is worth some USD2.6 billion, under what is known as the commercial crew programme, which is, of course, a hefty chunk of change. To date, SpaceX has had 18 safe launches this year, which ties its record of last year.
Both companies are having problems with their systems. Boeing has been suffering from propellant leaks and SpaceX with their parachute design. Both of these problems have delayed the first manned missions. SpaceX now anticipates it will launch its first manned flight in June of 2019.
Of course, the safety of the astronauts must be priority number one, but this does feel a little like the old guard trying to impose their values on the new guys. To put it another way, it is hard not to picture this as a crusty old neighbour complaining about the house full of students next door.