Space Launch System (SLS) Credit: NASA/MSFC

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued today a report that flags the finding: “Due to continued production and testing challenges, NASA’s three related human spaceflight programs have encountered additional launch delays and cost growth.”

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

 

Trio of systems

NASA is developing a trio of systems to put astronauts into space: the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS), and Exploration Ground Systems (EGS).

“In the past we’ve reported on concerns over the way NASA is managing these large and complex efforts—such as working to overly optimistic schedules,” the new report explains. “NASA is unlikely to meet its recently revised launch date for the first test flight. In addition, its reporting of cost growth for SLS and Orion is distorted. We recommended that NASA adopt more transparent cost reporting practices.”

Reevaluate strategy

The report makes four recommendations to NASA, including that the SLS program should calculate cost growth based on costs that are currently included in the first mission and the Orion program should update its cost estimate to reflect the schedule agreed to in its baseline. In addition, the SLS and Orion programs should reevaluate their strategy for incentivizing contractors, the report adds.

“NASA’s SLS, Orion, and EGS programs are a multi-billion dollar effort to transport humans beyond low-Earth orbit, but the agency has been unable to achieve agreed-to cost and schedule performance,” notes the GAO study.

Artist’s view of Space Launch System/Orion spacecraft on the launch pad.
Credit: NASA

“NASA acknowledges that future delays to the June 2020 launch date are likely, but the agency’s approach in estimating cost growth for the SLS and Orion programs is misleading. And it does not provide decision makers, including the Administrator, complete cost data with which to assess whether Congress needs to be notified of a cost increase, pursuant to law,” adds the GAO assessment.

NASA’s acquisition management has been on GAO’s High Risk List since 1990.

For details on this new GAO study, go to:

https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/699822.pdf

and the full report, here:

https://www.gao.gov/assets/700/699823.pdf

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