Ethics issues plague one of Elon Musk’s companies yet again, this time it involves SpaceX. The space launch company SpaceX is just one part of the massive taxpayer-subsidized corporate empire built by Musk that also include Tesla Motors and SolarCity. SpaceX, which has suffered several high profile launch failures in the last couple years, has developed a very close relationship with NASA, some say too close perhaps. The space launch company has allegedly paid off NASA for additional launch missions.
The allegation was investigated by the NASA Inspector General. It appears that SpaceX gave NASA a discount on launches after one of their recent launch failures.
“NASA received discounted prices for future cargo missions and other “significant consideration” from SpaceX in the aftermath of the loss of a Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station, according to a NASA report,” SpaceNews reports, “The report, issued by the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) June 28, the one year anniversary of the Falcon 9 launch failure that destroyed the Dragon spacecraft bound for the ISS on a mission designated SpX-7, also raised questions about how NASA handles launch failure investigations, manages risk for cargo flights and assigns cargo for those missions.”
The basic competence of SpaceX was called into question. SpaceNews reports that, in a letter to SpaceX from NASA, in February of this year, including “expressing concerns about the company’s systems engineering and management practices, hardware installation and repair methods, and telemetry systems based on ( the NASA Launch Services Program) review of the failure.”
The Falcon 9 failure in June of 2015 caused the lost of $112 million worth of cargo, as reported by NASA. After this failure, SpaceX’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) lowered the price on five additional launches scheduled for late 2015, SpaceNews reported. The report stated that SpaceX agreed to lowering the prices on those launches as compensation to NASA for that Falcon 9 failure.
It appears that SpaceX, in the process of offering such discounts, essentially bribed NASA officials to do add-ons, and post the launch failure, so it would receive those additional launches while blocking other competitors from having a shot at obtaining those launch missions. All of the proposals for CRS2 follow-on completions were submitted to NASA. This raises questions of whether SpaceX got special treatment from NASA in negotiating the discounts on the additional launches.
SpaceX has come under fire already for having special relationships with some politicians in Washington D.C., leading to allegations of special deals and favorable treatment. These matters have been subject of investigations by Inspector General offices over the last few years. This latest appearance of impropriety on the part of SpaceX, in regard to offering discounted launch missions to NASA in late 2015, warrant further investigation as well. Clearly this is another instance of so-called crony capitalism, to benefit a well-connected billionaire businessman, at the expense of the American taxpayers.