back to article After baffling Falcon 9 rocket explosion, SpaceX screams: Hands off our probe!

The quest to discover exactly why a SpaceX rocket exploded on the pad last month is getting complicated – with politicians fighting over who will control the investigation. On Thursday, a group of ten Republican congresscritters sent a letter [PDF] to NASA administrator Charles Boden, Federal Aviation Administration boss …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge
    Devil

    Fight fire with fire

    And fight pork with pork

    1. Dwarf Silver badge

      Re: Fight fire with fire

      Pork and fires are a good combination, in fact they can often be further improved by the inclusion of eggs, and beans at the start of the day, or beer and some french stick at the end of the day.

      When will politicians stop meddling within things and let the rest of the workers get on and achieve things.

      Reminds me of the expression Pro is to Con as Progress is to Congress.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: Fight fire with fire

        Bastard! I was on my way to bed when I read that. I am now HUNGRY!

      2. The First Dave

        Re: Fight fire with fire

        Downvoted for the mention of beans.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fight fire with fire

          Downvoted for the mention of beans.

          Why? One way or the other, the result is propulsion..

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    If accidents are unfortunate events....

    ...whats a mishap?

    Also, despite the dramatic nature of the failures, why should TWO cause a government investigation? Expensive but no injuries or deaths. It would be lovely to live in a world so idyllic that any negative event happening more than once sparked an intervention to understand and solve it.

    Icon is SpaceX rocket being sabotaged from grassy knoll.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: If accidents are unfortunate events....

      A mishap is less than an "accident", but more than an "oops".

      Sort of like bumping into someone drinking a pint.

      Oops: just a bump, no beer lost.

      Mishap: slight spillage, half a mouthful gone.

      Accident: Most of the beer is spilt, and you best fetch the lad a refill

      Catastrophe: Pint fully spilled, and you get a punch in the face even after you bought the lad a replacement

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: If accidents are unfortunate events....

      "It would be lovely to live in a world so idyllic that any negative event happening more than once sparked an intervention to understand and solve it."

      Yeah, someone remind me again how many people die on the roads each year due to accidents and mishaps. It surely must be more than two,

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hmmm...

    The US tax payer should get value for money, and they're buying a bunch of launches. The US government is obliged to ensure that it gets best value for money, and the politicians hold it to account on behalf of the tax payer / voters to make sure they do that. If SpaceX wind up losing a few National Security payloads, questions will be asked and will have to be answered.

    On the other hand, this latest mishap is really nothing to do with Uncle Sam (except for launch pad rental agreements presumably covering explosions like this), so butt out.

    Both points of view are understandable (accounting for some heavy duty lobbying) However, at the end of the day Uncle Sam is not just another customer, they’re perhaps the biggest customer. If they don't like what they see they'll eventually go elsewhere.

    Certainly as things stand, with the investigation seemingly not producing results, the next few launch customers are going to be feeling nervous.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      If they try to hush up the reason why it blew up, it might matter if it later does carry US payloads. The government gets involved in finding out the cause of plane and train crashes (including cargo ones where no one dies) surely when a rocket blows up that's equally within their purview.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        'The government gets involved in finding out the cause of plane and train crashes'

        Regarding aircraft crashes, under ICAO rules the body investigating them should be independent of the government. This allows them to freedom to point out when government regulation is a factor in an accident/incident. Hence in the UK the Air Accident Investigation Branch (AAIB) is an agency of the government but isn't part of it and more importantly is separate from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that sets the regulation. Hence in the USA the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigates the crashes while the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) sets the regulation.

        What I'm not sure about is how that works for space craft, I'd assume NTSB investigates and NASA sets regulation but not 100% as I don't think it's really come up before.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Regarding aircraft crashes, under ICAO rules the body investigating them should be independent of the government.

          In an ideal world - yes.

          In a non-ideal world the government will replace an investigator which refuses to sign a rigged report and gets the investigation it needs (my mom had that done to her when she refused to sign the protocol for a crash).

          Similarly, the government regularly announces what the result of the investigation is supposed to be like for example the Swiss in the Überlingen incident. In that case they got unlucky with the debris ending up on the German side which resulted in the Germans investigating it and revealing the REAL reason for the crash which is the swiss being 100% at fault, trying to white wash it and trying to hide the real reason and issue a Russophobic verdict of public opinion even before the investigation has started.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          And the NTSB was setup because previously the FAA was given the job of promoting air travel AND investigating crashes. So all crashes were one-off freak occurrences, or the dead crew's fault and never a flaw with the aircraft.

          There was a recent investigation into the FAA inspectors being a little too 'patriotic' in supporting US aircraft manufacturers post 9/11 = you can't find faults with Boeing because we need Boeing military aircraft to support our boys in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      2. LosD

        Big difference: Cargo trains crashing will destroy the tracks and hold up trains for months during repairs. Even if no one dies, the costs to society are _huge_

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    More Election Season Wrangling....

    Let's face it, lobby money and votes are up for grabs and headlines help. Should we, as citizens and taxpayers expect anything less from our elected officials? Both sides are defending their turf.... ULA and SpaceX Congresscritters will now stand their ground.

    On the other hand, why hasn't NASA or one of the agencies not jumped in with this investigation? Do they feel this is a matter for the company to sort out? Or will they wait until their next launch contract comes up?

  5. knightred

    So it's no government oversight or regulation except for rockets?

    Seems mighty suspicious a group of Republicans would ask for the US Government to interfere with a private business.

    And just a question, will they also approve the spending budget for NASA? Or just the spending for the Air Force's newest space laser platform?

    Also, what does the FAA have to say at all in this matter? "Umm we find the aircraft was unsuitable for flight because the wings could not provide enough lift."

    1. DryBones

      Re: So it's no government oversight or regulation except for rockets?

      McCain's been doing it to ULA with the RD-180 faffing, there's the Senate Launch System... I figure they figure it's the only major space company they're not steering about by the nose...

    2. Mage Silver badge

      Re:the wings could not provide enough lift

      Hybrid aircraft, blimps, balloons, rigid airships, helicopters etc don't have wings providing enough lift.

      What is needed is competent independent investigation of all accidents, especially explosions.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Re:the wings could not provide enough lift

        Helicopter = rotary wing aircraft.

  6. Mage Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Giant explosions & Rocket Launches.

    Seems daft that FAA or some other independent of Politics and Manufacturer organisation doesn't do the investigating.

    It should be treated more carefully and openly than an exploding aircraft, or by crazy logic are those only manufacturer investigated too?

    The potential for cover ups or plain un-audited mistakes for self investigation is too high.

    1. oomwat

      Re: Giant explosions & Rocket Launches.

      "The potential for cover ups or plain un-audited mistakes for self investigation is too high."

      I disagree with that completely ... if SpaceX does not discover the root cause for the explosion then nobody will have confidence enough in them to let them launch their satellites ... so it's in their interests to be completely thorough and transparent about their findings.

  7. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    If these "unfortunate events" keep on happening, who do we blame for the series?

    Lemony Snickets?

  8. imanidiot Silver badge
    Windows

    Thinly veiled attempt at stalling SpaceX

    The article already mentions it, this is clearly a thinly veiled attempt to stall SpaceX in favour of the "establisment". No doubt after some serious greasing of wheels lobby work.

  9. Gary Bickford

    USAF could be help or hindrance

    I'm torn. On the one hand, there are some real experts in this sort of thing in the USAF, and they could be helpful. OTOH, there are also some overrated desk jockeys and bean counters who could be depended on to stall the investigation for years. And the USAF brass has shown great willingness to lobby, intervene or sandbag in favor of their buddies at ULA.

    It is telling to see which politicians are on which side. Those asking for federal involvement are largely already in the ULA pocket. Certainly if the politicians were able to get an 'investigation' going, it will take a year or two before they even get started, and in the meantime SpaceX launches will be halted, decimating their market and forcing their customers to other competitors.

    With the decades-long history of bribery, political manipulation (in the US and other governments around the world), and chicanery, it is not outside the realm of possibility that ULA or its parents Boeing and Lockheed might have had something to do with this call for an investigation. I strongly doubt actual sabotage, but I have fairly knowledgeable friends who suspected that from the beginning.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I strongly doubt actual sabotage, but I have fairly knowledgeable friends who suspected that from the beginning.

    I can't recall where I read it, but I came across a story somewhere of attempts to inspect a rooftop with an excellent view of the launch platform. I'm no expert, but that struck me as less plausible as the chances of a projectile being picked up by cameras before impact would be too high to risk it.

    That said, I think we can still blame Facebook. It seems the right thing to do, really. :)

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    You can bet Richard Shelby's name was on the list of 10.

    Fully paid up member of the SLS supporters club.

    The joke is what really lowers prices to customers (including the USG) is competition.

    So what do these people want to strangle first?

    Oops. Should have remembered this is the Con-gress, note the Senate.

    No doubt the letter from the Senate will arrive in due course.

  12. unwarranted triumphalism Bronze badge

    Good

    Regulate this criminal enterprise out of existence and bankrupt its creepy owner.

  13. David Glasgow

    Hey, looks like I have been mistaken all these years...

    I have NEVER had an accident. Go me!

  14. Shinseiko

    Signed up so I could downvote you as the paid ULA troll you likely are.

    1. Drewc (Written by Reg staff) Gold badge

      Misfiring on all cylinders...

      Grow up.

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