The USA’s powerful Government Accountability Office (GAO), which handles formal investigations on behalf of the US Congress, says rocket company SpaceX has not remedied some worrying aspects of its Falcon 9 rocket assembly.
A leaked report says a GAO inspection found “persistent cracking of vital propulsion-system components” according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the report highlighted turbofans that pump fuel into the rocket’s engines. However, there is no suggestion that it was this problem that caused the catastrophic explosion that destroyed an AMOS-6 satellite last Septrember.
Indeed, SpaceX has successfully flown one launch since the explosion without any apparent problem.
However, the Congressional report that will follow is unlikely to permit flights to carry humans into space, as is currently planned with flights to the International Space Station next year unless repairs and modifications are made.
SpaceX says such modifications are already underway, although it is not yet clear as to how extensive – and potentially delaying – the changes will be.
SpaceX has slipped its launch dates for two upcoming commercial satellites, and the next Falcon 9 flight is an unmanned cargo mission to the Space Station scheduled for February 14th.