Why NASA Is Monitoring Elon Musk’s SpaceX Activities

It’s no question that space, for all of its marvels and glory, is a high risk business. And the stakes are really, really high. Because one small misstep may spell disaster for a space mission that took months, even years, of preparation and millions of dollars in funding.

In most cases, that small misstep may endanger the astronauts, and training people to be space-ready isn’t a walk in the park. We’ve sent so many people to outer space that just a few decades ago, it was thought to be almost impossible.

And so it’s no wonder that when NASA, an independent space agency, awarded both Boeing and SpaceX with commercial contracts to help support its research and plans of space exploration, it came with the U.S. military overlooking all of the processes to make sure everything is done the right way and in the correct order.

The Air Force itself has already reserved a flight on the Falcon Heavy, which is SpaceX’s newest operational rocket. The initial launch date for the planned flight was supposed to happen back in 2015, but several delays have yet to see it come to fruition. Still, that didn’t deter the Air Force to grant SpaceX a contract amounting to $130 million for a classified satellite launch just months after the Falcon Heavy first made its demo flight.

The Air Force itself seems to be very willing to embrace the new space program, since it already has two missions booked for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, with the first one scheduled to be launched by June this year. However, that still depends on whether Elon Musk and SpaceX can hit their target dates. And to do that, the organization and its spacecrafts must first pass the Air Force’s rigorous certification standards for their contracts.

“We have enlisted officer personnel that know what’s supposed to take place as they prep the rocket and the satellite, and they’re overseeing that. They can stop the operation and say, ‘Hang on a second, I believe you were supposed to do this. Let’s talk about that before we go on,” said Brigadier General Douglas Schiess, the Air Force commander leading the unit that oversees SpaceX.