Tag: GAO

GAO: Orion Cost & Schedule Estimates “Not Reliable”

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Orion_components

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (GAO-16-620) says that NASA has used bad on estimating the cost and schedule for its Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, leaving the program open to budget overruns and cost delays.

“GAO found that the Orion program’s cost and schedule estimates are not reliable based on best practices for producing high-quality estimates,” the report stated. “Cost and schedule estimates play an important role in addressing technical risks.”

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GAO: FAA Faces Challenges With Commercial Space Oversight

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faa_logoCommercial Space:
Industry Developments and FAA Challenges
Government Accountability Office
Testimony (PDF)
GAO-16-765T
Published: Jun 22, 2016

Why GAO Did This Study

The U.S. commercial space launch industry has changed considerably since the enactment of the Commercial Space Launch Amendments Act of 2004. FAA is required to license or permit commercial space launches; however, to allow space tourism to develop, the act prohibited FAA from regulating crew and spaceflight participant safety before 2012—a moratorium that was extended to 2023. The U.S. Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act, enacted in November 2015, addressed other aspects of the commercial space launch industry.

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FAA Oversight of Commercial Space Transportation Hearing Video

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The House Subcommittee on Aviation held its first hearing in seven years on the FAA’s oversight of commercial space last month. Members heard from a heavily industry-centric panel of experts who largely praised the moratorium on regulations that is in place until 2023.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s scathing criticism of the FAA’s oversight role on SpaceShipTwo prior to the accident was briefly discussed on a couple of occasions, as were the potential conflicts between FAA’s dual roles of oversight and promotion.

Taber MacCallum of World View Enterprises dismissed the criticism of FAA Associate Administrator George Nield and the FAA’s performance prior to the crash as Monday morning quarterbacking. He also called for a permanent extension of the moratorium on regulations.

Michael López-Alegría also claimed that the FAA had done its job properly. He dismissed the idea that regulating the industry would make it any safer.

Witness List:

  • Dr. George C. Nield, Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration | Written Testimony
  • Dr. Gerald L. Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation Issues, Government Accountability Office | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Michael Gold, Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Michael López-Alegría, Vice Chair, Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee | Written Testimony
  • Mr. Taber MacCallum, Chief Technology Officer, World View Enterprises | Written Testimony

 

NASA Spending $23.8 Billion Developing Deep Space Exploration Programs

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sls_orion_ground_costs_fullA new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report places the formulation and development costs of the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and related ground systems at just under $23.8 billion.

The total includes $11.28 billion for Orion, $9.69 billion for SLS, and $2.81 billion for exploration ground systems at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The figures are included in a new GAO report released last week titled, “NASA: Assessment of Major Projects.” In the report, GAO looked at the space agency’s deep space exploration effort and other major programs.

The space agency is working toward a November 2018 launch readiness date of an uncrewed Orion capsule aboard an SLS capable of lifting up to 70 metric tons (77 tons) into low-Earth orbit. The new rocket’s core stage will be powered by four RS-25 engines and extended five-segment solid rocket boosters derived from the space shuttle program.

A flight test with crew members aboard is planned for April 2023. However, NASA officials continue to work toward an internal launch readiness date of August 2021.

The GAO’s $9.7 billion estimate for the Orion program only covers the first crew flight.

“This life-cycle cost estimate does not include production, operations, or sustainment of additional crew vehicles, despite NASA’s plans to use and possibly enhance the vehicle after 2023,” the report stated.

The space agency also plans to evolve SLS to have the capacity to lift 130 metric tons (143.3 tons) to low-Earth orbit. The upgraded launch vehicle would use advanced boosters and a more powerful upper stage.

The GAO report found that NASA faces a number of challenges in keep to its schedule. Issues include challenges with developing the rocket’s interim cryogenic propulsion stage (ICPS), the need to redesign Orion’s heat shield, delays in writing ground system software, and limited cost and schedule reserves.

GAO: FAA AST Failed to Justify Budget Increase Request

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faa_logoThe FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) failed to justify its request for an additional $1.5 million in funding to hire more personnel in its Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) review has found.

“FAA’s fiscal year 2016 budget submission does not provide a detailed justification of the staffing changes and does not consider alternatives to hiring additional staff,” the report states. “Because FAA has not done this, Congress lacks information that would be helpful in making decisions about the resources needed for the agency’s commercial space launch activities.”

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GAO: NASA, CASIS Need Metrics to Evaluate ISS Research

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casis_new_logoThe Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report calling for NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) to develop better methods for evaluating the research being done aboard the International Space Station National Laboratory.

GAO found that CASIS, which manages the laboratory for NASA,  has yet to establish metrics for evaluating the effectiveness of the work done on the orbiting laboratory. The report, Measurable Performance Targets and Documentation Needed to Better Assess Management of National Laboratory, was submitted to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

“CASIS officials told GAO in July 2014 that setting measurable targets would be arbitrary because CASIS processes and metrics are still evolving,” the report concluded. “In January 2015, however, the Chairman of the CASIS Board of Directors told GAO that setting measurable targets is a priority for the board. CASIS, however, has yet to establish a date by which measurable targets will be developed.”

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House Science Committee Gives Industry What It Wants

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Capitol Building
The commercial space industry had a great day on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with the Republican-controlled House Science Committee giving it most of what it wanted while swatting away proposed changes from the minority Democrats.

Among the goodies approved by the committee: a decade-long extension of the moratorium on regulating commercial human spaceflight;  a nine-year extension of industry-government cost sharing for damages caused by launch accidents; and an act that would give companies property rights to materials they mine from asteroids.

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The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part II)

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Second of 2 Stories

It was a busy year for a number of commercial space companies. While most of them made considerable progress, the news wasn’t all good.

A Dream Deferred

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) had a pretty rough year, losing out on two major contracts and laying off more than 100 employees.

On a Friday in May, just as everyone was preparing for the long Memorial Day weekend, Virgin Galactic announced it was dumping the hybrid rubber motor SNC developed for SpaceShipTwo in favor of a hybrid nylon one produced by Scaled Composites.

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Triumph & Tragedy: The Year in Commercial Space 2014 (Part I)

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Part of SpaceShipTwo's fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Part of SpaceShipTwo’s fuselage. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

The year 2014 was one of steady progress and major setbacks in commercial space. Here is a rundown of some of the major developments and trends of the year. A later will look more closely at some of the companies in the industry.

A Crash in the Desert. The tragic loss of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and death of Scaled Composites test pilot Mike Alsbury on Oct. 31 sent shock waves through the space community. The ship was ripped apart over the Mojave Desert about 13 seconds into a powered flight test when its twin tail booms suddenly deployed. Pilot Pete Siebold was thrown free of the wreckage and landed under parachute, battered and bruised but alive.

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Sierra Nevada Statement on GAO Rejection of Commercial Crew Appeal

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

SPARKS, Nev. (Jan. 5, 2015) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) was advised today that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has denied the company’s protest challenging the outcome of NASA’s  Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contract award. At this stage, SNC is evaluating the GAO decision. While the outcome was not what SNC expected, we maintain our belief that the Dream Chaser® spacecraft is technically very capable, reliable and was qualified to win based on NASA’s high ratings of the space system. We appreciate the time and effort contributed to this process by the GAO and NASA to fully evaluate such a critical decision for the United States.

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NASA Praises GAO Commercial Crew Decision

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Launch_America_Commercial_Crew
NASA issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) decision to deny a protest Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, filed Sept. 26, 2014, challenging the agency’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) Contract awards made Sept. 16, 2014, to The Boeing Company, Space Exploration, Houston, and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California.

“The GAO has notified NASA that it has denied Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability contract awards. NASA is pleased the GAO’s decision allows the agency to move forward and continue working with Boeing and SpaceX on the Launch America initiative that will enable safe and reliable crew transportation to and from the International Space Station on American spacecraft launched from the United States, ending the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation. The case remains under the protective order and blackout until the GAO releases its decision.”

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GAO Denies Sierra Nevada Protest of NASA Commercial Crew Award

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Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

Dream Chaser landing at Ellington Field. (Cedit: SNC)

Statement on Sierra Nevada Bid Protest Decision

The following is a statement from Ralph O. White, Managing Associate General Counsel for Procurement Law at GAO, regarding today’s decision resolving a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., B-410485, et al., January 5, 2015.

On January 5, 2015, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) denied a protest filed by Sierra Nevada Corp., of Louisville, Colorado, challenging the award of contracts to The Boeing Co., Space Exploration, of Houston, Texas, and to Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), of Hawthorne, California, by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract (CCtCap).  Sierra Nevada argued, among other things, that NASA’s evaluation departed from the solicitation’s stated evaluation and selection criteria by significantly elevating NASA’s stated “goal” of obtaining an integrated crew transportation system no later than the end of 2017, and by failing to put offerors on notice that the agency’s goal would be central to the evaluation and selection decision.

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Sierra Nevada Appeal Decision, SpaceX Barge Landing Attempt Loom

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Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

Dream Chaser shuttle. (Credit: NASA)

With the new year comes some major developments in commercial space:

Monday, Jan. 5:  The Government Accountability Office is scheduled to rule on an appeal by Sierra Nevada Corporation’s protest of NASA’s decision to award Commercial Crew Program contracts to Boeing and SpaceX.

The decision left SNC and its Dream Chaser shuttle out in the cold for delivering crew to the International Space Station. SNC claims its bid was significantly lower than the one submitted by Boeing, and that NASA’s decision-making process was marred by irregularities.

Landing legs deployed just before soft water landing in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

Landing legs deployed just before soft water landing in the Atlantic Ocean. (Credit: SpaceX)

Tuesday, Jan. 6: SpaceX will attempt to land a Falcon 9 first stage on a barge. The rocket will be launching a Dragon freighter to the International Space Station. The launch is set for 6:20:29 a.m. EST. NASA Television coverage will begin at 5 a.m. EST.

Sierra Nevada Protests Commercial Crew Awards

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Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Dream Chaser (Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation)

Sierra Nevada has formally protested NASA’s decision to award commercial crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX:

Details of the objection lodged with the Government Accountability Office will be released shortly, Krystal Scordo, a Sierra Nevada spokeswoman, said today by e-mail. The GAO has 100 days to make a decision in the case.

The move erects at least a temporary roadblock for Boeing and SpaceX, which were picked by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. NASA’s funding for so-called space taxi flights marks the first time the U.S. has turned to commercial ventures for sending humans into orbit.

Read the full story.

UPDATE: Here’s the Sierra Nevada press release:

Sierra Nevada Corporation Challenges Award of NASA’s
Commercial Crew Transportation Capability Contract

SPARKS, Nev. (Sept. 26, 2014) – Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) announced today that it has filed a legal challenge to the award of contracts to Boeing and SpaceX under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program.  The CCtCap program will restore U.S. transportation capability to the International Space Station.

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GAO: NASA Needs Executable Business Case for SLS

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Artist rendering of the RS-25 engines powering the liftoff of the 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity configuration SLS from the pad. (Credit: NASA)

Artist rendering of the RS-25 engines powering the liftoff of the 70-metric-ton (77-ton) lift capacity configuration SLS from the pad. (Credit: NASA)

Space Launch System: Resources Need to be Matched to Requirements to Decrease Risk and Support Long Term Affordability
Government Accountability Office
Published: Jul 23, 2014

What GAO Found

The Space Launch System (SLS) program is making solid progress on the SLS design. However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has not developed an executable business case based on matching the program’s cost and schedule resources with the requirement to develop the vehicle and conduct the first flight test in December 2017 at the required confidence level of 70 percent. NASA uses a calculation referred to as the “joint cost and schedule confidence level” to estimate the probable success of a program meeting its cost and schedule targets. NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication.

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