NASA’s Gerstenmaier and AIAA’s Sandra Magnus at recent hearing.
Credit: Inside Outer Space/Screen Grab

A House Space Subcommittee hearing was held November 9, dedicated to examining the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), Orion Crew Vehicle and the associated ground systems.

The hearing, titled “An Update on NASA Exploration Systems Development,” heard from William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator, Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, NASA and Sandra Magnus, the outgoing Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA).

Delay and disappointment

A key upshot of the hearing is that NASA is sliding the first SLS launch to no earlier than December 2019 – a delay of at least one year for Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), the first flight of SLS with an uncrewed Orion. Delays with the delivery of the European Service Module could push this into 2020.

NASA’s Space Launch System.
Credit: NASA

In his opening statement, Full Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, in part:

“After all these years, after billions of dollars spent, we are facing more delays and cost overruns,” Smith said. “Recent hurricanes and tornadoes have damaged some facilities and slowed localized progress but many of the problems are self-inflicted.”

Smith said it is very disappointing to hear about delays caused by poor execution when the U.S. taxpayer has invested so much in these programs.

“Congress needs to have confidence in NASA and the Exploration Systems contractors,” Smith concluded, “which I don’t believe we have now. That confidence is ebbing. If it slips much further, NASA and the contractors will have a hard time regaining their credibility.”

Smith’s full opening statement can be found here at:

Artist rendering of Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft in deep space.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Not out of woods yet

In an opening statement from Subcommittee Chairman, Brian Babin (R-Texas), he commented: “We aren’t out of the woods yet on this program, but we can see the edge of the forest. Significant progress has been made. We are bending metal, writing software code and integrating hardware. Given a program of this magnitude, this is no small feat — particularly given the challenges the program faced under the last administration.”

Babin’s full statement can be found here at:


The written testimony of NASA’s William Gerstenmaier is available at:

AIAA’s Sandra Magnus is available at:

Hearing video

To video view the entire hearing, go to:

Inspector General report

Also, take note of “NASA’s 2017 Top Management and Performance Challenges.”

The NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its annual report identifying what it views as the top management and performance challenges facing the space agency.

OIG report available at:

An OIG video is can be viewed at:



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