NASA to review workplace safety culture at SpaceX, Boeing

NASA orders safety review of SpaceX and Boeing reportedly due to Elon Musk marijuana video

Between Demo-1 and Demo-2, SpaceX plans to perform an in-flight abort test where a Crew Dragon will use its abort system to jettison from a Falcon 9 vehicle after liftoff.

NASA declined to comment on what prompted the review, but a spokesperson said it would ensure the companies are meeting the space agency's requirements for workplace safety, including adherence to a "drug-free environment".

"If I see something that's inappropriate, the key concern to me is what is the culture that led to that inappropriateness and is NASA involved in that", he told The Post.

It's not surprising NASA is launching such a probe, as there's a lot riding on the deal it has with SpaceX and Boeing. "We are confident that our comprehensive drug-free workforce and workplace programs exceed all applicable contractual requirements", a spokeswoman said.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine added in an interview that top executives need to portray a model for culture and leadership.

"SpaceX is targeting November 2018 for Crew Dragon's first demonstration mission and April 2019 for Crew Dragon's second demonstration mission, which will carry two NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station", said Benji Reed, director of Crew Mission Management at SpaceX, in the statement. "Anything that would result in some questioning the culture of safety, we need to fix immediately". "Our commitment has always been to provide NASA and those crews the highest level of mission assurance", he said in an August statement.

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The two companies were hired by the space agency to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.

Those test flights come after years of work by both companies, as well as significant delays caused initially by shortfalls in funding and, more recently, by technical problems both companies have experienced.

SpaceX said it has a "strong partnership" with NASA and that it promotes workplace safety. "Current projected schedules for uncrewed and crewed test flights for both providers have considerable risk and do not appear achievable", said Patricia Sanders, chair of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), of the commercial crew program during an October 11 meeting of the committee.

"The culture at Boeing ensures the integrity, safety and quality of our products, our people and their work environment", a spokesman said in a statement.

NASA revealed the nine astronauts that will take to space aboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon earlier this year. While Soyuz missions are set to resume next month, NASA is racing the clock to get at least one commercial crew vehicle certified before NASA's access to Soyuz seats expires in early 2020.

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".

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