Ever since the sudden explosion earlier last year, SpaceX has been having a great year till date. It has either landed or expended its Falcon 9 rocket booster but the allegations brought to the table today are quite surprising. A former employee Jason Blasdell claims he was fired from the company for flagging off the senior management, including CEO Elon Musk, about their lacking test protocols and falsified results.
With regards to the same, Blasdell (who is also a former marine) is suddenly waking up to realize that he was wrongfully terminated from Hawthorne-based SpaceX way back in 2014. It is, however, only after nearly two years that he is breaking silence and dragging the private space company to court for its unlawful practices.
He is now suing the private space company for his wrongful termination when he raised concerns about deviating from defined test procedures and putting most engineer in harm’s way. His stint at SpaceX came to an abrupt end after three long years, during which he was working on the team that tests avionic components of Falcon 9 launch vehicles and the Dragon spacecraft.
For those unaware, SpaceX has long been working on the development of its latest rocket booster — Falcon Heavy (which was tested just earlier this month) and its flagship Dragon capsule (which will some day carry humans to space). The private space firm signed an agreement with NASA to send off astronauts to the International Space Station in this combined setup. The project has, however, been plagued with numerous delays and SpaceX has aligned itself with a scheduled timeline for next year.
Static fire test of a Falcon Heavy side booster completed in McGregor, TX last week. This booster previously launched Thaicom 8. pic.twitter.com/nWrNCXtu13
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 25, 2017
It is not only planning to deliver humans to the ISS but will also conduct its first-ever independent space exploration mission, as it will send off two (presently anonymous) humans around the moon later in 2018. The said mission could, however, hit another snag if the allegations brought forth by Blasdell prove to be true. His claims were earlier thrown out of court on SpaceX’s request. Their complaint document filed now reads as under:
The practices were extremely dangerous and could possibly lead to a damaged or faulty part ending up in a SpaceX rocket, which could result in a rocket exploding in orbit, and worse, could result in the catastrophic loss of human life.
He further alleges that senior managers, who presided above him, pressured technicians to steer in a direction different than the one defined in test procedure manuals. As Bloomberg mentions, the complaint says that they even signed off the rocket parts that hadn’t been conducted according to protocols. In an opening statement to the jurors, Blasdell’s lawyer, Carney Shegerian said:
He went up the chain of command as he had learned in the Marines was the proper procedure. He had nothing personal to benefit from this other than to do the right thing.
On the other other hand, SpaceX’s lawyer, Lynne Hermle in her opening statement told the lawyers that their former employee was removed from him position due to his unacceptable job performance — earlier back in 2014. She mentioned that his fellow Falcon 9 engineers were worried about everyone’s safety because of his incompetancy.
In her statement, with regards to the surprising allegation, Hermle claimed that Blasdell was never pushed to conduct any unlawful testing of rocket components. She added that the lawsuit is completely baseless as the former employee neither complained about a rocket testing concern before nor did he bring his concerns about the said practice in front of the federal authorities. Hermle added,
Jason Blasdell is not a whistle-blower and this is not a whistle-blower case.
Blasdell and his souped up lawyer team hasn’t provided any evidence to support his claims as of yet and we’re awaiting that pivotal information that’ll back his allegations against Musk’s space company. California’s Superior Court Judge William Fahey ruled that the jury won’t second-guess the scientific decisions and judgements passed by internal employees. Blasdell has also been asked not to speculate if any other SpaceX employee is faking the results. The trial expected to happen in two weeks.