Senators fire rocket at SpaceX

spacex-grasshopperIt seems that SpaceX has rattled the chains of the defence establishment and is doing its job a little too well.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is putting payloads into orbit for less money than the big government contractors charge and it appears that has angered those in the defence community who have been making a fair bit of dosh flogging more expensive projects and gear to NASA.

In the US when a corporate feels threatened it uses one of its tame lobby senators to go on the attack and so far their weapon of choice has been Senator Richard Shelby. He threw needless layers of bureaucracy at SpaceX .

Now it appears that more senators have been drawn in on the side of the other defence contractors.

Three House members—Mike Coffman, Mo Brooks, and Cory Gardner have sent a memo to NASA demanding that the agency investigate what they call “an epidemic of anomalies” with SpaceX missions.

The three are insisting that as a contractor, the company should be accountable to the American taxpayer. On this they are on a sticky wicket. According to Space News, NASA did not actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did so there is no public funds being used to develop the rockets in the first place.

The three senators are also moaning that SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems that has prevented payloads getting into space. However that is normal and it is unlikely that NASA could have done any better.

The congressmen’s complaint that SpaceX is behind schedule is also deeply ironic when the Sentator’s chum’s own project NASA’s Space Launch System—a next generation rocket that is supposed to replace the Shuttle—is also delayed.

Space expert Phil Plait  thinks that what the big defence contractors are worried about is that the space launch system is so behind that  SpaceX is catching up with its Dragon V2 and the Falcon Heavy which will launch next year.  The Space Launch System will not test launch until 2017.

Plait said that it is a transparent attempt from members of our Congress to hinder a privately owned company that threatens their own interests.

Boeing, which is the major SLS contractor has a big plant in Alabama, Brooks’ and Shelby’s home state. The United Launch Alliance has its HQ in Colorado, home to Gardner and Coffman – coincidence perhaps?