The loss of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 7 (CRS-7) mission on June 28th demonstrates, in the view of the National Space Society (NSS), the wisdom of NASA’s policy of maintaining technologically different competitive CRS providers. This was the seventh of 12 contracted flights to the International Space Station (ISS) by SpaceX. All 18 previous flights of the Falcon 9 (including five v1.0 flights and thirteen v1.1 flights) have been successful in meeting their primary objectives. CRS-7 was to have launched a new docking ring to the ISS for future use by NASA Commercial Crew flights and would have made another first stage recovery attempt.
NSS would like to express continued support for SpaceX and NASA as they analyze and test to understand and recover from Sunday’s launch failure. “Spacecraft engineering is a very challenging profession and failure is always one possible outcome but we learn, implement and move forward,” said Bruce Pittman, NSS Senior Operating Officer. “NASA and the US government should continue to support the ISS, including the commercial cargo and crew programs.”
Paul Werbos, member of the NSS Board of Directors, said, “In a free market world, the government is supposed to be taking on the burden of the most advanced, highest risk challenges, in an open competitive way. NASA has been doing this by supporting SpaceX via the Commercial Resupply Services program as SpaceX develops the technology to reuse launch vehicles.”
NSS fully supports Space X’s efforts to upgrade its Falcon 9 rocket, especially its efforts to make it reusable. As SpaceX said recently, “A jumbo jet costs about the same as one of our Falcon 9 rockets, but airlines don’t junk a plane after a one-way trip from LA to New York. Yet when it comes to space travel, rockets fly only once-even though the rocket itself represents the majority of launch cost (www.spacex.com/news/2015/06/24/why-and-how-landing-rockets).” NSS believes reusable rockets, once perfected, will be inherently more reliable than expendable vehicles, as well as less costly.
NSS Executive Vice President Dale Skran said: “After a failure like this, voices will be heard calling into question NASA’s use of commercial launch service providers. We need to recall that in spite of the best efforts of NASA and the expenditure of many billions of dollars, NASA lost two space shuttles with their entire crews. Eventual success is built on lessons learned from failures. We are confident that SpaceX will learn from the loss and rapidly return to service.”