When you become one of the leading private space flight companies on the planet you can bet that the government is going to have a whole lot of interest in what you’re up to. SpaceX is one of those companies, and after an investigation from the Government Accountability Office, it appears as though the firm’s pricey Falcon 9 rockets aren’t up to federal standards. In fact, the rockets may have a vulnerability that could lead to catastrophic failure under certain circumstances.
As Wall Street Journal reports, the congressional investigators who dug into SpaceX’s hardware discovered that a crucial part of the rocket is prone to cracking, and they have deemed it too weak. The turbine blades that help pump volatile rocket fuel to the engines in the Falcon 9 are the worrisome component, and while SpaceX insists that the turbopump is built to function even if a crack occurs, such a weakness could potentially hold SpaceX back from carrying out launch duties for NASA and other clients.
According to a comment from a SpaceX spokesperson, the company is taking swift action to correct the problem, and plans to change the design of the component to eliminate the possibility of cracks developing during flight. However, with over a dozen launches on the schedule for SpaceX, it’s unclear how design changes might impact planned missions.
The Government Accountability Office will release its complete report on SpaceX at some point in the coming weeks, and at that point we may get a better idea of just how complicated the problem and potential solutions are.