Rocket Science as Political Sport

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Tuesday, October 11th, 2016, 2:51 PM PERMALINK

Politicizing the recent failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket isn’t just politics as usual. It actually risks setting back America’s growing free-market space industry.

During a pre-launch test last month, the private space company lost one of its advanced Falcon 9 rockets as it prepared to deliver a $195 million Israeli communications satellite to space. Though the satellite was meant for civilian use, a group of representatives sent a letter to the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration putting into question SpaceX’s certification to be awarded military contracts.

It’s shocking that this needs to be repeated, but rocket science is not easy. This is why the Air Force and the FAA carefully vet launch providers and ensure compliance with safety regulations and vehicle reliability.

Simply put, why would SpaceX lose its certifications before the investigation is complete?

The easy answer is to make SpaceX’s competition the only game in town when it comes to military launches. Of course, limiting America’s options for launching important payload into space may hamper national security, but crony capitalism can be lucrative to established players. In fact, it would entrench reliance on the questionable RD-180 engine.

In a letter signed by Rep. Bill Flores (R-FL) and a bipartisan group of 23 other United States Congressmen, the FAA, Air Force, and NASA were asked to continue the normal process of investigation. They are reminded that “due to strong safety procedures… the mishap resulted in no loss of life, no injuries, and no damages to third party property.” In other words, the system worked.

As the letter points out, SpaceX did invite members of NASA and the Air Force to help in the internal investigation of the explosion. All of this followed the precedent of the multiple investigations to similar incidents that came before.

Conservative lawmakers should know better than to demand rash actions to events before anyone knows what really happened. To put into perspective, SpaceX is the company that is seeking to create an honest-to-goodness vehicle to take humans to Mars and back. What’s more, they are funding this by competing in the open market against established crony-capitalist companies and state-run rocket services. SpaceX deserves to be treated the same way as any other company. They should be allowed to complete their investigation without Congressional meddling.

The future looks bright for space exploration. We should let pioneering businesses have a chance to prove themselves.

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