Monday, November 12, 2007

Time For Policing COTS?

Did you hear about the "small" fire last week down at SLC-40 at the Cape? The pad where COTS provider SpaceX is setting up shop. If you read their press briefing, you'd think it was no big deal. “This kind of thing is not unheard of during large scale demolition. That’s why we have procedures in place. Everyone acted professionally and by the book, and fortunately no one was hurt,” said Norman Bobczynski, SpaceX’s launch site director.

Only problem is that there was a space shuttle in the air at the time. A shuttle headed for a landing at KSC, not far from the location of the fire. Truth be told, the shuttle was almost waved off when a dozen firefighters from the KSC landing party had to be detoured to SLC-40 to help get the raging fire under control. Fortunately, when the professionals took over, the fire was snuffed and the landing proceeded as planned.

But what if they hadn't been so lucky that day? What if the result was closer to the event that killed three people out in Mojave working on the Spaceship 2 propulsion system earlier this year? What if?

Isn't it about time that some safety regs be put in place at airports and at the Cape where this dangerous work is being undertaken? Shouldn't a sufficient and professional level of review be provided before more innocent "billionaires' helpers" are killed? Of course, the COTS folks will complain that the government is trying to get in the way of their success. But, do we really have to wait until they kill someone in space before action is taken?

No comments: