SpaceX Faces Legal Action Over Safety Concerns: The Cabada Lawsuit 

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The Starship SN4 vehicle is equipped with a solitary Raptor engine beneath it. (Image Credit: Elon Musk / SpaceX)

Ydy Cabada recently sued the SpaceX program for negligence in a state court in Los Angeles, California. On January 18, 2022, there was an engine malfunction in the SpaceX region. It was a serious accident that resulted in one of their technicians, Francisco Cabada getting injured badly. His wife, now two years later is filing a lawsuit on behalf of her husband, who is currently still in a coma. 

For some context, SpaceX, developed by entrepreneur, Elon Musk, is an American aerospace company founded in 2002 that aspires to jumpstart the era of commercial spaceflight, where everyday people could have the chance to visit outer space. Known to have connections with The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) ISS (International Space Station), the company built its first rocket, named Falcon 1, where the rocket was designed to take small satellites into orbit. They also focused on the idea of reusable rockets, as most rockets up till now are only meant for one-time uses. They have made many rockets since then and are set to collaborate with NASA’s Artemis program where astronauts are getting sent to Mars.

The incident of January 18th happened during the pressure testing of one of the rockets SpaceX was developing, Raptor V2, in Hawthorne, California. The engine of the rocket fired off and fractured Francisco Cabada’s skull, causing a coma. An investigation done by Reuters in response to this event revealed that previously, more than 600 workers were injured in the rocket-making site. In addition, before this incident, managers in the area were alerted about the unsafe engine. According to Reuters, two workers told them “Before the pressure testing, the flaw was even discovered, but not fixed, due to time constraints.” 

Exploring the lawsuit further, Yda sued the aerospace company. She accused them of neglecting safety protocols during engine testing, and not implementing proper safety measures, which resulted in her husband, Francisco Cabada, being exposed to unsafe distances during the testing. The legal action asserts that inadequate safety training was provided to Cabada, who sufficiently leaked knowledge about the risks associated with the engine test equipment and emergency procedures. In the lawsuit, Ydy Cbada is pursuing compensation for the significant physical and psychological distress endured by Yda and the family financial assistance for his medical treatment, and compensation for the income loss. 

In terms of the lawsuit, SpaceX has yet to respond publicly, and questions regarding this allegation have not been addressed and declined by both SpaceX and Michael Rand (Ydy Cabada’s lawyer). Moreover, SpaceX refrained from commenting on the Reuters investigation concerning the worker injuries. A major financial contributor of SpaceX, NASA, a private space contractor who has contributed over $11.8 billion to the ambitions of SpaceX also didn’t comment on the lawsuit. 

In the wake of this incident involving Francisco Cabada and the subsequent lawsuit against SpaceX, the need for better safety standards in high-risk industries becomes increasingly evident. Ydy Cabada’s legal action underscores the importance of accountability and proper safety protocols in aerospace endeavors. The pursuit of justice serves as a reminder to prioritize safety and uphold ethical standards while pursuing ambitious space exploration goals.

Written by Divya Saha

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