Houston, TX

How a trucking company could have caused a space disaster

Covering Katy


HOUSTON (Covering Katy) – When we think of space flight disasters, we typically recall engineering mistakes like faulty O rings or foam breakage, not laziness on the part of the rocket fuel delivery guy.

Federal investigators say there could have been a deadly space flight accident because a Texas company that hauls jet fuel did not do its job.

Now, Anahuac Transport Inc. must pay a substantial fine after admitting to its reckless conduct.

Anahuac admitted to falsifying its records and delivering potentially tainted rocket fuel for NASA and Department of Defense rocket launches.

To prevent fuel contamination, Anahuac was required to ensure the tanker trailer they used did not previously contain certain chemicals that may have adverse reactions with the fuel they sold to NASA. However, Anahuac intentionally falsified its documents, claiming it had not previously hauled incompatible chemicals with its tanker trailers.

Anahuac transported the rocket fuel with its contaminated trailers. As a result, NASA used the fuel for rocket launches.

U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery says Anahuac corporate representatives Gary Monteau and Brant Charpiot admitted their guilt on February 23 on behalf of the company and agreed to forfeit $251,401 that it obtained from what prosecutors called a "criminal scheme."

U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett ordered the company to serve three years of probation and to pay an additional fine of $275,000. During the hearing, the court noted the importance of the Johnson Space Center to the identity of the Houston area and how it was a privilege for a company like Anahuac to play a role in the U.S. space program. He noted that Anahuac had abused that privilege.

At the time of the plea, Monteau, Charpiot, and Anahuac agreed to be banned from federal government contracting for two years.

NASA and DOD entered into contracts with various companies, including SpaceX, to launch rockets with supplies for the International Space Station and military payloads.

These companies procured fuel for the rocket launches and contracted to transport the fuel to the launch sites. Anahuac was in the business of hauling chemicals in tanker trailers. From 2012 through 2020, NASA and DOD subcontracted Anahuac to transport the rocket fuel.

NASA - Office of Inspector General (OIG) and DOD – OIG conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert S. Johnson is prosecuting the case.

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