A man from the state of New York has been responsible for providing false inspection reports and test certifications for parts used in SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, but also for vehicles from other aerospace companies employed by the Ministry of Defense. The misconduct was brought to light thanks to an investigation by the NASA Inspector General, the FBI and the Air Force Office for special investigations.
The man, James Smalley, was a quality engineer at PMI Industries, a machining company in Rochester, New York that makes various aviation components. In January of 2018, SpaceX notified SQA Services to conduct an internal audit, which revealed that numerous PMI inspection reports and test certifications – used to confirm the safety and quality of a part – the signatures of inspectors had forged them. More specifically, Smalley took signatures from the SQA inspector photocopied and then copied and pasted into the reports.
"According to the criminal complaint, James Smalley took the act of forgery to a new level," said Gary Loeffert, a special agent from the FBI Buffalo, in a statement. "A potentially catastrophic level with the potential to not only cost millions of dollars, but also endanger years of unreliable work."
Smalley is accused of tampering with up to 38 critical component reports used in SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rocket line, according to the American Attorney's Office in western New York district. The investigation also revealed that up to 76 PMI documents had been rejected or not inspected at all during the inspection; they were sent to SpaceX anyway. All in all, up to 10 SpaceX government missions may have been affected by the suspect sections, including seven for NASA, two for the Air Force and one for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some of the fake reports even revolved around parts intended to be used in launching NASA & # 39; s new exoplanet-seeking spacecraft, TESS, in April 2018. However, NASA inspector general had been warned about launch the counterfeits.
If he is convicted, Smalley can receive 10 years in prison and pay a $ 250,000 fine, the US law firm said.