House Plans ISS Hearing for July 10 Amid Reactions to SpaceX Launch Failure

House Plans ISS Hearing for July 10 Amid Reactions to SpaceX Launch Failure

In a statement on the SpaceX launch failure today, the House Science, Space and Technology (SS&T) Committee announced that it will hold a hearing on the status of the International Space Station (ISS) on July 10.   The statement, from the chairs of the full committee and its space subcommittee, was one of several expressing disappointment about the failure but determination to learn what went wrong and continue to support the ISS.

The failure of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket 139 seconds after launch this morning (Sunday, June 28) marked the third failure in eight months of the systems that resupply the ISS with food, water, science experiments, spare parts and other equipment needed to sustain the station and its crew.  Usually six people inhabit the ISS although only three are there now because they are in the middle of a crew rotation. It was SpaceX’s seventh operational cargo mission to the ISS under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA — CRS-7 or SpX-7.  The first six were successful.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, several members of Congress, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation issued statements today.

Bolden said that although NASA was disappointed, the ISS crew is safe and has sufficient supplies for several months.  “SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply flights to the station, and we know they can replicate that success.”  Spaceflight “is an incredible challenge, but we learn from each success and each setback….Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our ambitious human spaceflight program.”  Bolden is a former astronaut who piloted or commanded four space shuttle missions.

“Disappointed” was a common term expressed today, including by House SS&T Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) who added that he wants to ensure the safe and timely supply of ISS.  New space subcommittee chairman Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX), who represents the district that includes Johnson Space Center, said he was eager to learn what went wrong and determine “how it can be fixed to strengthen and advance our commercial cargo program.”  Their press release announced the July 10 hearing.

Their Democratic counterparts, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), the ranking Democrat on the full committee, and Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD), ranking Democrat on the space subcommittee, also issued statements.  Johnson said she was grateful no one was hurt and is confident SpaceX and NASA will take appropriate corrective actions.  Edwards also said she was thankful no one was hurt and the failure “shows us once again that space is difficult.”  She stressed that she will continue to press members of the House Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Obama Administration’s requests for transporting cargo and crew to the ISS.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, tweeted the following:


As a Congressman, Nelson flew as part of the crew of the space shuttle mission STS-61C in January 1986 (Bolden was the pilot of that mission).  The next shuttle launch, 10 days after he landed, was the Challenger tragedy.  His flight used the orbiter Columbia, which was lost in the space shuttle program’s second tragedy in 2003.

The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF), which promotes the development of commercial human spaceflight, praised the “amazing success of a track record that a commercial launch provider like SpaceX has and continues to enjoy” although failures like today’s “remind us that there is still work to be done.”

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