Inspector General to begin study of Air Force launch program

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WASHINGTON – The Defense Department’s Inspector General announced June 15 it would begin an inspection next month into whether the Air Force’s primary launch program is following widely-adopted quality and safety standards.

The inspection is self-initiated, meaning it is not driven by a request from Congress, a DoD spokeswoman said.

In a June 15 letter, Randolph Stone, the Defense Department’s deputy inspector general, said the inspection into the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program would begin in July 2016 and would specifically look into common quality assurance and safety requirements for the aerospace industry. Compliance with the requirements, often referred to as AS9100C, is contractually required, the letter said.

The project will include interviews, site inspections and documentation with the Defense Department as well as its two primary launch providers, United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, the letter said. No further information was available.

The Air Force’s EELV program is responsible for the launch of national security satellites from the Defense Department and intelligence community and is regularly the Pentagon’s costliest space program.

The DoD Inspector General’s office previously announced it is investigating another launch-related matter. In March, the office opened a case to determine whether ULA received DoD contracts in accordance with federal regulations. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for the investigation after a former ULA vice president, Brett Tobey, said the Air Force had “bent over backward” to give ULA an advantage for a competitive launch contract. ULA chose not to bid for the contract, which was won by SpaceX.