Smoke billows from the SpaceX launch site. Reuters via NASA TV
Smoke billows from the SpaceX launch site. Reuters via NASA TV

A judge ruled Friday that lawyers for a man who says he was fired by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. after blowing the whistle on managers for allegedly pressuring test technicians to ignore risks of explosions and approve tests of rocket parts can take the deposition of the company’s president.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Fahey said 53-year-old Gwynne Shotwell must attend the deposition by the end of March and that she may be questioned for a maximum of three hours by attorneys for plaintiff Jason Blasdell. He said that any further time will not be granted without a substantial showing it is needed.

Blasdell worked at the rocket and spacecraft manufacturer’s Hawthorne headquarters as an avionics test technician from 2010 until his 2014 firing, according to his lawsuit filed last April 1.

Blasdell received consistently positive reviews from management for his work, his lawsuit states. However, he began seeing safety issues related to the testing procedures of rocket parts, leading him to question the quality of the testing and the risks it posed for not just the rockets potentially exploding, but for the potential loss of human life as well, according to his attorneys’ court papers.

Blasdell complained to Shotwell, to SpaceX founder Elon Musk and to the company’s human resources department that there were potentially dangerous deviations from protocol that his managers were pressuring test technicians to make, his lawyers state in their court papers.

Shotwell told Blasdell during an October 2013 meeting that she would investigate his concerns and hire an outside consultant to investigate, according to the plaintiff’s attorneys’ court papers.

Blasdell followed up in early 2014 when he inquired of Shotwell by email whether the consultant had been hired, his attorneys’ court papers state.

“Ms. Shotwell never responded to plaintiff’s inquiry, but instead wrote a separate email to plaintiff criticizing the manner in which plaintiff communicated with management,” according to Blasdell’s attorneys’ court papers.

Blasdell was fired in April 2014 for being “disruptive,” according to his attorneys’ court papers.

In their court papers, SpaceX attorneys called Blasdell’s lawsuit “baseless.”

—City News Service

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