NASA probes ‘drug-free’ policies, safety at SpaceX, Boeing

Pat Wise
November 24, 2018

Since 2011, NASA has had a contract with Russian Federation to fly American astronauts to and from the ISS on Soyuz rockets.

Both companies still face a variety of technical hurdles, and the dates are tentative at best. According to this report, airliner giant Boeing also holds a spaceflight contract from NASA which it will seek to fulfill using its proprietary CST-100 Starliner capsule. While that might sound like NASA is planning on making sure the fire exits work at SpaceX HQ, it's actually an incredibly involved undertaking that will require hundreds of employees to be interviewed.

"We take seriously the responsibility that NASA has entrusted in us to safely and reliably carry American astronauts to and from the International Space Station", he said.

Instead of focusing on rocket safety, NASA's Office of Safety and Mission Assurance will look into how many hours employees work, company drug policies, leadership styles, and company responses to employees' safety concerns. But in a statement, he said it would "ensure the companies are meeting NASA's requirements for workplace safety, including the adherence to a drug-free environment".

In response to the news of the inquiry, SpaceX said in a statement: "human spaceflight is the core mission of our company".

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In October, NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel reported [PDF] that "current projected schedules for uncrewed and crewed test flights for both providers have considerable risk and do not appear achievable". So far it has launched 18 times - tying its record from a year ago - and says it is getting close to launching NASA's astronauts.

The first of the bunch to fly to outer space is the Crew Dragon, which is scheduled to take off from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on January 7.

"We fully expect our commercial partners to meet all workplace safety requirements in the execution of our missions", said NASA in a statement.

Boeing said it's committed to continuing a legacy of trust, openness and mission success with NASA. SpaceX's contract is worth approximately $2.6 billion, while Boeing's is worth up to $4.2 billion. It is unclear if Musk has a government security clearance from SpaceX's contract with NASA.

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