Space Launch System. Credit: NASA

Space Launch System.
Credit: NASA


The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued two new reports on the overall status of NASA’s Space Launch System and the space agency’s next piloted program, Orion.


What GAO found in summary is that the SLS has resolved some technical issues and matured its design since GAO’s July 2015 report, but pressure remains on the program’s limited cost and schedule reserves.

This pressure, in turn, threatens its committed November 2018 launch readiness goal, the GAO reported.

Software: substantial risk

In reviewing the Orion program, what GAO found the project has overcome several technical challenges and made design changes to the crew capsule to reduce risk.

NASA's Orion spacecraft headed outward to Mars. Credit: Lockheed Martin

NASA’s Orion spacecraft headed outward to Mars.
Credit: Lockheed Martin

Known challenges, however, remain—such as development of the service module and the crew capsule heat shield, among others—that could cause cost increases and schedule delays as the program undergoes integration and test.

“Technical challenges are inherent in complex programs such as Orion, but if not carefully managed, they could result in cost overruns and schedule delays. For example, the program has identified software development as an area of substantial risk with a potential cost impact of more than $90 million and which may result in schedule delays,” the GAO report explains.



NASA Human Space Exploration: Opportunity Nears to Reassess Launch Vehicle and Ground Systems Cost and Schedule: GAO-16-612, July 27.

Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: Action Needed to Improve Visibility into Cost, Schedule, and Capacity to Resolve Technical Challenges: GAO-16-620, July 27.

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