Inspector General of the Pentagon yesterday announced that it will examine how exactly SpaceX's rockets were certified to launch US Air Force payload back in 2015, first reported Bloomberg . In a letter to Heather Wilson, the Air Force Secretary, the Inspector General, Michael Roark, wants to know if the certification process followed the Air Force's new launch vehicle certification guidelines. However, the letter does not say what led to the review.
The news comes almost four years after SpaceX fought and won the opportunity to launch military satellites with its Falcon 9 rocket. Prior to this certification, the Air Force mainly depended on a single company to start its payload in space: United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin. But SpaceX would also have the opportunity to bid for national security contracts, and the company convicted the Air Force in 201
SpaceX settled the suit after the Air Force agreed to work with the company to certify its vehicles. The company then received approval in May 2015 to fly national security launches, and these kinds of assignments have become a major part of SpaceX's business ever since. The company just moved a new GPS satellite to the Air Force in December and even launched Air Force's secret space plan, X-37B, 2017. SpaceX also has many launches for the Air Force in the future, including a couple on the company's more massive Falcon Heavy rocket. Air Force officials have even expressed interest in flying on SpaceX's reusable rockets that have previously flown into space and back.
It is unclear how the result of this new evaluation will affect any of SpaceX's future assignments. The inspector's general audit will take place in February and will take place at the space and missile system center in El Segundo, California. The DOD inspector did not generate any further clarification as to why this is done now. SpaceX also did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
However, it is possible that recent actions by legislators in California – where SpaceX exists – may have requested this new review. In early February, Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) letter to Sec. Wilson argues for a review of how the Air Force Awards launch contracts, according to a report in Space News . The letter was in response to a new round of contracts awarded by the Air Force in October, further developing new launch vehicles that could fly national security loads. The awards worth $ 2.3 billion went to three companies: Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, and United Launch Alliance. SpaceX was left out even though the company is developing a new massive rocket called Starship.
Finally, the Air Force will select at least two launch providers that can compete for national security contracts starting in 2020. Because SpaceX is currently certified to launch military satellites, it is still operational, even though it did not receive the investment from the Defense Ministry in October. . But in their letter, Feinstein and Calvert claimed that the latest awards created an "unfair game", according to Space News .