Elon Musk’s visionary company SpaceX has been dominating space and technology headlines all year, and for good reason. The company plans to be the first to make humanity an interplanetary species with its Interplanetary Transport System program, designed to create permanent colonies on Mars.
To get humanity there, SpaceX has designed groundbreaking reusable rockets capable of returning to Earth and landing upright on their original launchpads. During a test of one such rocket in September, an unknown malfunction caused the Falcon 9 rocket to explode during fueling, destroying the $285 million dollar satellite it was carrying.
That’s where the story gets interesting. Many observers immediately noted that an unknown flying object could be seen in the rocket’s airspace at the time of the explosion. Even Elon Musk himself stated that interference from a UFO could not be ruled out in the ensuing investigation. Some news outlets have even gone so far as to declare the explosion the result of an "enemy drone" or "laser weapon." Those bizarre elements alone would be enough to make the Falcon 9 rocket’s explosion a mystery, but new developments this week have made this story enter the realms of shadowy government conspiracy or corporate sabotage.
As it turns out, SpaceX has some perhaps-unfriendly competition from two stalwarts of the U.S. military industrial complex, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two aerospace giants have their own private space venture, United Launch Alliance (ULA). As it turns out, ULA just so happens to have a building located near SpaceX’s Cape Canaveral launch site. While combing through footage of the doomed rocket’s explosion, SpaceX investigators noticed anomalous shadows and bright spots on the roof of the nearby ULA building at the time of the explosion. SpaceX conducted what they have called a “cordial” meeting with ULA officials, and requested to send an investigator to visit the rooftop in question, but were denied. While Air Force investigators claim they found nothing out of the ordinary at ULA facilities, SpaceX has issued a statement stating they are not ruling out any possibilities:
Accident Investigation Team has an obligation to consider all possible causes of the anomaly, and we aren’t commenting on any specific potential cause until the investigation is complete.
SpaceX has been particularly tight-lipped about the investigation, which is being carried out with the help (or perhaps obfuscation) of the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Space Wing. Disconcertingly, ten U.S. congressmen from states with heavy ULA presence (and who all receive hefty campaign contributions from ULA) have tried to block SpaceX from carrying out its own investigation. As early as 2014, these congressmen have been appealing to NASA and the Air Force to halt SpaceX’s development of rockets, citing national safety concerns, naturally.
Could these developments hint at a bitter corporate space race full of intrigue, sabotage, and nefarious government influence? Unfortunately, it’s likely that as always, the lowly public might remain in the dark on the shadowy backroom dealings between government officials and upper echelon aerospace contractors. Unless, that is, Elon Musk decides once and for all to expose the slimy underbelly that is the military industrial complex.