NASA picks first two Science Instruments for Gateway

Katie Ramirez
March 14, 2020

The report, by the NASA inspector general, painted another grim picture of the troubles that have long plagued the Space Launch System rocket as Boeing, NASA's prime contractor on the rocket, struggles to get the unwieldy program under control.

When NASA announced in 2019 the Artemis program to put USA astronauts on the Moon's surface in late 2024, the plan was to use the Space Launch System (SLS), a two-stage heavy-lift rocket, to put the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle (Orion) into space. As soon as full, the SLS is ready to be essentially the most highly effective rocket on the earth, able to lofting greater than 200,000 kilos of fabric into low Earth orbit. NASA planning to fly people on the Launch System to dock them with a small station around the moon and from there they will descend down to the surface in a Lander.

According to the IG, "Each of the major element contracts for building the SLS for Artemis I - Stages, ICPS, Boosters, and RS-25 Engines - have experienced technical challenges, performance issues, and requirement changes that collectively have resulted in $2 billion of cost overruns and increases and at least 2 years of schedule delays". Three government contractors namely Aerojet Rocketdyne, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman are now working on this project with Boeing dealing the majority of the vehicle, while Aerojet takes the responsibility of making the engines and lastly Northrop develop boosters that help the rocket providing extra thrust at liftoff. 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 Gateway will orbit near the Moon and will be periodically occupied by astronauts as part of NASA's sustainable lunar exploration plans. As of December 2019, NASA had obligated $14.8 billion on the SLS Program and is expected to spend a total of $17.4 billion by the Artemis I launch date. That first dispatch is right now assessed to occur at some point in the spring of 2021 - over two years after the first gauge.

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NASA initially hoped the rocket would make its debut in 2017. Moreover, if the Artemis II launch date slips to 2023, total SLS Program costs by then will increase to more than $22.8 billion. Additionally, with regard to Northrop Grumman's Boosters contract, numerous incremental contract modifications and the lack of a NASA appointed on-site technical monitor have contributed to an administrative burden on NASA management and issues with monitoring contractor performance.

The auditors, having put the boot into Boeing in their 2018 report, noted that things were now improving, although schedule and cost pressures remained.

NASA's inspector basic, together with the Authorities Accountability Workplace, has been warning concerning the mismanagement of the SLS program for years.

One payload, given by NASA, includes a suite of instruments that will screen space climate conditions. The audit says that NASA must let Congress know that this system has exceeded its timeline and funds, take a more in-depth have a look at how persons are managing these applications, and develop a brand new value accounting mannequin. "NASA has already begun implementing enhancements to raised observe value and schedule and to report progress in opposition to baseline", NASA officers mentioned in response.

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