Public Footing The Bill On Tragic SpaceX Rocket Program?

Last Thursday, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 exploded on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, causing a reported $200 million in damages. However, the question remains: Who’s paying for it?

According to Popular Mechanics, all space exploration programs are covered by insurance, but there’s a very fine print that gives insurance companies an out when the time comes for indemnification.

Apparently, when an explosion happens on the ground, as is the case of the SpaceX rocket, it’s not covered by launch insurance. In fact, there’s a precedent for this kind of thing. Two years ago, Orbital ATK tried to launch an unmanned rocket bringing cargo and supplies to the space station. But just three seconds into the attempt, there was an explosion.

They thought that the flight insurance would cover the cost of the damage, but they couldn’t have been more wrong. The NASA inspector general said that upon review of the circumstances of the explosion on the Orbital ATK, the insurance would only cover “damage from aircraft and aviation operations, it explicitly excludes spacecraft and launch vehicles.”

In response, four Virginia Congress representatives passed measures for NASA, and by extension the public, to shoulder the cost of repairs to the damaged launching pad.

Given the precedent set in 2014, one or two Congress representatives may once again pass a bill asking NASA to pay for the cost of the SpaceX rocket.

Now, if only NASA had listened to the recommendation of the Inspector General in the aftermath of the Orbital ATK explosion, there wouldn’t be any confusion today as to whose pockets the cost of damage will be debited.

“As NASA continues to rely on commercial companies, it is important to ensure all parties comply with procedures and clarify who pays for what in the event of a mishap,” the recommendation said.

The SpaceX rocket exploded while ground crew personnel were refueling at the launch pad located in Cape Canaveral, said BBC News report. Fortunately, nobody was injured in the incident.

The rocket contained what would have been Facebook’s first satellite, which the social media giant developed along with Eutelsat Communications. If successful, it would have connected much of sub-Saharan Africa in agreement with Facebook’s Internet.org.

“We remain committed to our mission of connecting everyone, and we will keep working until everyone has the opportunities this satellite would have provided,” Mark Zuckerberg said on his Facebook account.

Zuckerberg expressed disappointment over what happened to the SpaceX rocket.

It’s not clear what the explosion could mean to the SpaceX rocket program, particularly its contract with NASA to send U.S. astronauts to the space station. That program still has no timetable, but it’s expected to deliver by 2017.

Stephanie Martin, a spokesperson for the Kennedy Space Center, told CNN Money that all speculations at this point are premature.

“It is too early to know what impacts there would be (with the manned flights), and it would be inappropriate to speculate at this time,” she said.

Pundits, however, think that the explosion is just a minor hiccup to the SpaceX program considering that it’s attempting to reduce the cost of the space program by recycling rockets. To do that, the company is developing rockets that can land upright.

[Photo by Marcia Dunn/AP Images]



from Department of Private Space Inc.