NASA has made progress in improving the development of software for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) booster and Orion spacecraft that will take American astronauts back to the moon, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The software is on track to be ready for the first launch of SLS and an automated Orion capsule in 2021, the review found. However, challenges remain in the over budget and behind schedule effort.
Determined to land astronauts on the moon in time for the 2024 presidential election, the Trump Administration has proposed boosting NASA’s budget by 12 percent, an increase that includes $3.37 billion program for a human lander.
The $25.2 billion plan for fiscal year 2021 is $2.69 billion above the current spending level. More than half the amount, $12.95 billion, would be spent on human space operations in Earth orbit and preparing for missions to the moon.
How the proposal will fair in Congress is unclear. To boost Artemis spending, the Administration has proposed a number of cuts that Congress has rejected in previous Trump budgets. Those reductions include:
NASA’s culture of excessive optimism and its tendency to underestimate technical challenges combine with funding instability to cause cost overruns and schedule delays, according to a new report from the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG).
The document identified NASA’s management of major projects as one of the space agency’s top seven performance challenges. [Full Report]
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — Teams from NASA’s Exploration Ground Systems and Space Launch System (SLS) practice SLS booster stacking with pathfinders inside Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building.
The goal of the training, which took place Nov. 18 through Nov. 20, was to practice booster segment mate. Using overhead cranes and booster handling activities, the teams focused on procedures for mating a center segment onto a cylinder that simulated another segment. The exercise was performed around the clock, operating three shifts per day.
SLS will launch the first woman and next man to the Moon by 2024 through the Artemis program. For more information, click here.
NASA is already hampered by a shortfall of skilled workers, a problem that will be exacerbated as the space agency gears up to return astronauts to the moon by 2024 in the Artemis program.
That is the conclusion of a new report from NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The review identified attracting and retaining a highly-skilled workforce as one of the space agency’s seven biggest management and performance challenges. [Full Report]
The Government Accountability Office released another depressing review this week of NASA’s Artemis program, specifically looking at the space agency’s progress on the Space Launch System, Orion spacecraft and the exploration ground systems (EGS) required to support them.
Cristina Chaplain, GAO’s director of Contracting and National Security Acquisitions, summarized the report’s conclusions on Wednesday in testimony before the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics.
A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of NASA’s human lunar effort has concluded the Artemis 1 flight could slip to June 2021 as costs continue to rise.
“In November 2018, within one year of announcing an up to 19-month delay for the three programs—the Space Launch System (SLS) vehicle, the Orion spacecraft, and supporting ground systems—NASA senior leaders acknowledged the revised date of June 2020 is unlikely,” the report concluded. “Any issues uncovered during planned integration and testing may push the launch date as late as June 2021.
WASHINGTON (House Appropriations Committee PR) — The House Appropriations Committee today released the draft fiscal year 2020 Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies funding bill, which will be considered in subcommittee on Friday, May 17. The bill funds the Departments of Commerce and Justice, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other related agencies.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – NASA is funded at $22.32 billion, $815 million above the 2019 enacted level. This funding includes:
$7.16 billion for NASA Science programs – $255.6 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level.
$123 million for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Engagement, $13 million above fiscal year 2019 and rejecting the Administration’s request to eliminate funding for these programs, which help inspire and train the country’s future STEM workforce.
$5.1 billion for Exploration – $79.1 million above the fiscal year 2019 enacted level. This includes funding to continue the development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System, and related ground systems.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – The legislation contains $5.48 billion for NOAA, which is $54.28 million above the fiscal year 2019 level and more than $1 million above the Administration’s request. Funding will help address important priorities such as climate research, improvements in weather forecasting, the reduction of harmful algal blooms, and fisheries management.
Editor’s Note: The measure does not seem to take into account the supplemental request made earlier this week for NASA.
Working on a freelance project right now, so I don’t have time to go through the bill. For anyone who has time to take a look at the text of the House markup (link above), here are some resources for comparison purposes:
NASA has not implemented nearly one third of the recommendations for improvements that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) made to it four years earlier, the government watchdog agency said.
“In November 2018, we reported that on a government-wide basis, 77 percent of our recommendations made 4 years ago were implemented,” GAO said in an April 12 letter to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
“NASA’s recommendation implementation rate was 70 percent. As of February 2019, NASA had 51 open recommendations. Fully implementing these open recommendations could significantly improve NASA’s operations.” GAO added.
If you’ve been puzzling over exactly why NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine suddenly floated the idea of flying the first Orion space capsule to the moon next year without the Space Launch System (SLS), The Washington Post has a couple of answers today:
SLS is much further behind schedule than anyone knew; and,
NASA has received a $21.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2019, which is $736.86 million above FY 2018 and $1.6 billion above the total requested by the Trump Administration.
The funding, which came more than four months into the fiscal year, was included in an appropriations bill signed by President Donald Trump on Friday. NASA’s budget has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years. In FY 2018, the space agency received an $1.64 billion increase over the previous year.
When Congress insisted that NASA build the Space Launch System (SLS) some years back, the argument was simple: just adapt all this technology from the space shuttle program using the workers and infrastructure that already exist to develop a new heavy-lift booster.
It all sounded deceptively simple — and deceptive it was. NASA and its contractors soon ran into a problem that affects many such projects: it’s often easier to build something from scratch than to modify systems that already exist. And there you have the problem with the SLS program in a nutshell.
Updated May 5 at 12:53 p.m. PDT with information about funding for a second Mobile Launcher.
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
There are “emerging concerns about the structural integrity of the Mobile Launcher’s base” from which NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft will lift off, according to a new government assessment.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “loads models have indicated low stress margins in critical locations in the Mobile Launcher base. The program attributed this issue to an error in their model.
NASA: Assessments of Major Projects Government Accountability Office May 1, 2018 Full Report
What GAO Found
The cost and schedule performance of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) portfolio of major projects has deteriorated, but the extent of cost performance deterioration is unknown. NASA expects cost growth for the Orion crew capsule—one of the largest projects in the portfolio—but does not have a current cost estimate. In addition, the average launch delay for the portfolio was 12 months, the highest delay GAO has reported in its 10 years of assessing major NASA projects (see figure below).
The deterioration in portfolio performance was the result of 9 of the 17 projects in development experiencing cost or schedule growth.
Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.
So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.