NASA has revealed that it will begin an extensive review of workplace safety rules in two of its biggest commercial partners. The space agency will be looking at SpaceX and Boeing after it emerged that SpaceX’s CEO Elon Musk had been involved in “drug use” a few weeks ago. Both Boeing and SpaceX are working collaboratively with NASA to develop advanced spacecraft that will allow astronauts to conduct deep space explorations in the future. The space agency said that the extensive reviews will probably take a few months. They will also require many interviews.
It’s not clear whether the inquiry will affect the launch schedule for some of the space vehicles under development by the two companies. SpaceX and Boeing are currently developing a number of spacecraft that are expected to start operations in 2019. The NASA reviews were apparently triggered after Elon Musk smoked marijuana during a podcast with Joe Rogan. The podcast was recorded in California where the recreational use of marijuana is legal. However, it did spark a lot of controversy in the press.
One of the challenges was actually simple. Although there are about ten states in the US that have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, the drug is prohibited under federal laws. In addition to this, SpaceX, where Elon Musk is the CEO, is one of the most important suppliers of launch rockets for NASA and the US military. These two institutions do prohibit any kind of drug use within their ranks. In that case, it’s very easy to see why NASA felt obligated to take some action on the matter.
A statement released by the space agency noted that the inquiry will largely be collaborative. It will involve both companies in an effort to establish any weaknesses in existing workplace safety rules. The statement also noted that it’s the expectation of NASA that all its commercial partners meet the safety rules that the company has outlined. It’s very unlikely though that the reviews will lead to any shift in the kind of relationship that NASA has with the two companies. After all, SpaceX and Boeing have played a very central role in helping the space agency with its missions.
For instance, Boeing was the primary manufacturer of the international space station. The company is also building the next big deep space rocket for NASA. On the other hand, SpaceX has largely been involved with supplying cargo at the International Space Station. The two companies are working together in a new program by the space agency known as the Commercial Crew Program. The program is designed to help launch private US vehicles into space in an effort to facilitate the development of space tourism.
NASA has largely relied on the Soyuz rocket from Russia to get astronauts into space. This costs the space agency about $80 million per seat. Engaging SpaceX and Boeing is seen as the first step by NASA to create its own rockets. The review is expected to start as soon as possible. However, there’s no clear guidelines on how it will be done or when it will actually end.