Published: Sat, March 14, 2020
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA chooses 2 investigations for the Moon mission

NASA chooses 2 investigations for the Moon mission

NASA has estimated that the expenditure on the SLS program until the end of 2020 will be $17 billion.

Boeing, prime contractor for the rocket's core stage, shut down production in October after inspectors cited safety and quality assurance violations, including "foreign objects found in various parts" of the first SLS rocket's core stage, according to the report. Moreover, if the Artemis II launch date slips to 2023, total SLS Program costs by then will increase to more than $22.8 billion.

The auditors, having put the boot into Boeing in their 2018 report, noted that things were now improving, although schedule and cost pressures remained. Specifically, we assessed the extent to which (1) the SLS Program is meeting cost and schedule goals for Artemis I, (2) NASA is tracking and appropriately reporting overall cost and schedule goals, and (3) the SLS Program is managing cost and schedule for key contracts. The efforts to make amends for the issues that have contributed to the delay is ongoing. They later masked the troubled programme's cost overrun, which would have triggered more oversight by now, with an accounting decision that internal and external investigators have judged to be a violation. And with all of those delays, it turns into more and more unlikely that NASA will be capable of meet its aim of sending people again to the Moon by 2024, particularly if the SLS is a central a part of that plan. Specifically, rather than using separate contract line item numbers (CLIN) for each element's contract deliverables, each of the contracts have used a single CLIN to track all deliverables making it hard for the Agency to determine if the contractor is meeting cost and schedule commitments for each deliverable.

All of them are finding difficulty in the setback and technical problems thus resulting in an increase of $2 billion and extended the project for another 2 years. However, the report notes that NASA now expects that to slip to spring 2021, and those costs keep on rising.

Both the OIG, in the 10 March report, and the US Congress' Government Accountability Office have concluded that NASA officials improperly tracked the SLS cost overrun, making the overrun look artificially small, following changes to the programme in 2017.

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The inspector basic chalks these issues as much as technical points, unhealthy administration, and poor performances from the NASA contractors. While NASA has addressed numerous problematic issues in Core Stage, ICPS, Booster, and RS-25 Engine development, we expect additional cost increases totaling approximately $1.4 billion-$1.3 billion for Stages, $107 million for Boosters, and $41 million for ICPS-before the Artemis I launch.

Northrop Grumman and Aerojet have also experienced issues, according to the report, with problems relating to the Booster's propellant liner and insulation, and a new Engine Controller Unit for the Shuttle era RS-25 engines proving hard to overcome.

NASA has chosen the first two scientific investigations for its mission to the moon: observing space weather and monitoring the sun's radiation.

NASA said additional science charges will be selected to fly aboard the Gateway in the future.

The report recommended NASA inform Congress of the budget and schedule details, and Loverro agreed. In Recommendation 3, management only addressed the Core Stage and Upper Stage CLINs, and not future acquisitions of Boosters and RS-25 Engines.

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