Lawmakers in US have called for a detailed review of Air Force’s dealings with private firms that include awarding contracts worth $3.2 billion in public-private partnerships except SpaceX. This probe could have consequences for the Elon Musk owned firm too say insiders as in future it will not get government funding for upgrading its rocket launchers to meet requirements of Air Force. Surprisingly even the Defense Department’s Inspector General has announced its decision to make a detailed audit of the clearance certificates given to SpaceX by Air Force.
In the DoD’s IG order it has been specified that the department’s objective is to determine if the Launch Services New Entrant Certification Guide had been complied with while certifying the launch system design for both Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy Launch vehicles. The Air Force is also under pressure from manufacturers of small launch vehicle to announce its plan for procurement of these services. Procurement officer of Air Force Will Roper stated that the department is yet to figure out a plan to understand the technologies offered by these companies and work out collaborations with them. As of now no particular officer has been assigned the task of managing purchase of small launch vehicles for Air Force.
Most activities of the Air Force related to space programs are managed by its Space and Missile Systems Center and Roper said that it is still too early to assign the task of procurement to a single person or group as needs of the department are very complex. To gain the attention of private players the Air Force said Roper needs to have a loud voice. President of Virgin Orbit Mandy Vaughn stated that the military requirement and procurement process is tough for private industry to comprehend as the department of defense purchases launch services as a service on a payload – per – payload basis.