Air Force demanded too much in its SpaceX certification process

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In the heat of competition: A military review of the Air Force’s certification process of SpaceX has found that the Air Force has demanded far more changes from the company than were justified or proper.

The report, prepared by former Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry Welch, said the Air Force treated the process like a detailed design review, dictating changes in SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and even the company’s organizational structure. That approach resulted in over 400 issues that needed to be resolved, which was “counterproductive” to a national policy aimed at encouraging competition in the sector.

In fact, the process was intended to show that SpaceX met overall requirements to launch military satellites, not carry out the more detailed review required for each launch on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The review also concluded that SpaceX was too resistent to any proposed changes.

SpaceX might have been too resistent, but this report confirms my suspiciion that the Air Force purposely created hoops for SpaceX to jump through because the Air Force really didn’t want to have to deal with SpaceX and wanted to make it too difficult for them to be approved.



  • D.K. Williams

    The stupidity of Federal government.

  • PeterF

    All it really takes is one strategically placed bureaucrat on a power trip to hang out the “not invented here” sign.

  • Crissa

    D.K., government is made by the people, of the people. The Air Force are people. People we chose, by systems other people we chose developed. People are people.

    And sometimes people do stupid things. This is one of them. That they were allowed to create this system without oversight of our politicians is an indictment of us, not them.

    What’s stupid? Thinking ‘the federal government’ is not you.

  • Kelly Starks

    Actually this has been the standard review process for mil products for decades, and its far less demanding then FAA commercial vehicle certification standards. When they allowed vendors to do substandard design processes etc – they had increased failures.

    >..The review also concluded that SpaceX was too resistent to any proposed changes.

    NASA reported that on the CCDev (and I think COTS as well) contract as well.

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