GAO: NASA Performance on Major Projects Continues to Deteriorate

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its latest assessment of NASA’s major projects at the end of April. It found that NASA’s performance on its major projects continued to deteriorate on cost and schedule. (Full Report)

Below are key excerpts from the report that provide an overview of where NASA stands on its major projects. Although GAO did not analyze the Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon, the watchdog warned the Trump Administration’s decision to move the landing date up from 2028 to 2024 will put more pressure on the space agency.

“Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame,” the report stated.

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NASA Laser Communications Project Running Behind Schedule, Over Budget

Laser Relay Data Demonstration project (Credit: Universities Space Research Association)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A NASA project to demonstrate advanced optical laser communications in space is running nearly $50 million over budget and 14 months behind schedule, according to a recent assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD) project is designed to advance optical communication technology for use on near-Earth and deep space missions.

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Over Budget Restore-L Mission 3.5 Years From Launch

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s $1 billion Restore-L mission to refuel the aging Landsat 7 satellite is running about $300 million over budget and almost three years behind schedule, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The project’s woes have included a shortage of both funding and skilled personnel as well as the addition of a new instrument with immature technology to the satellite servicing spacecraft.

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DART Mission To Deflect Asteroid Moves Toward Early 2022 Launch

DART mission (Credit: Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s planetary defense mission to deflect a small asteroid continues to move toward a February 2022 launch date while holding to its $313.9 million budget, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) will fly to the binary asteroid Didymos and impact the smaller of the two bodies to assess techniques for deflecting dangerous asteroids on collision courses with Earth.

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Landsat 9 Remains on Schedule for Late 2021 Launch

Landsat 9 Operational Land Imager 2 (Credit: Ball Aerospace)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If all goes well, an Atlas V booster will lift off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in November 2021 with the newest satellite in the U.S. government’s almost half century old Landsat Earth observation program.

The Landsat 9 remains on schedule and within its $885 million budget despite prime contractor Northrop Grumman experiencing ongoing delays in spacecraft electronics fabrication, flight software and systems integration, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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NASA-CNES Surface Water Mission Remains on Cost, Schedule

SWOT satellite (Credit: NASA JPL)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A Franco-American mission to measure global surface water levels from space continues to hold to its budget and an April 2022 launch date despite the late arrival of its main scientific instrument, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The $754.9 million Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission had been working toward a September 2021 launch date, which would have been seven months ahead of schedule.

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Lunar Gateway’s Power & Propulsion Element Faces Cost Increases

The power and propulsion element of NASA’s Gateway is a high-power, 50-kilowatt solar electric propulsion spacecraft – three times more powerful than current capabilities. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The first element of NASA’s lunar Gateway station will cost more than the original $375 million firm-fixed contract due to the way the space agency awarded the project to Maxar Technologies, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The Gateway’s Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) also might not be able to achieve its goal of demonstrating an advanced Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system in lunar orbit due to delays in the development of that technology, GAO found.

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NASA’s PACE Mission Moves Forward Despite Efforts to Kill it

PACE satellite (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) satellite has continued to move forward toward an early 2024 launch despite attempts by Trump Administration, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Psyche Mission Facing Delays in Acquiring Instruments, Electronic Parts

NASA’s Psyche mission to a distant metal asteroid will carry a revolutionary Deep Space Optical Communications (DSOC) package. This artist’s concept shows Psyche spacecraft with a five-panel array. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State Univ./Space Systems Loral/Peter Rubin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s first mission to explore a metal asteroid has faced delays in obtaining key instruments and advanced electronic components, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The $996.4 million Psyche mission will explore asteroid 16 Psyche. The spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in August 2022.

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NASA Making Progress Upgrading Space Tracking Network

This artist’s concept shows what Deep Space Station-23, a new antenna dish capable of supporting both radio wave and laser communications, will look like when completed at the Deep Space Network’s Goldstone, California, complex. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s program to upgrade its 1980’s vintage ground-based tracking network is making progress after years of delay and budget overruns, although challenges remain, according to a new assessment from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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WFIRST Continues to Make Progress Despite Cancellation Attempts

Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) continues to making steady progress toward an October 2026 launch despite the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to cancel it, according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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Europa Clipper Faces Delay Due to SLS Booster Decision

Europa Clipper in orbit around Europa. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Europa Clipper orbiter could be placed in storage for two years awaiting a ride to Jupiter’s icy moon at a cost of $250 million due to Congress’ insistence that it be flown aboard the Space Launch System (SLS), according to a new review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The cost estimate assumes that the Europa orbiter will be ready for launch in July 2023. It would be placed in storage until launch aboard a SLS in September 2025.

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Webb Space Telescope Unlikely to Meet Launch Schedule

Deployment tests like these help safeguard mission success by physically demonstrating that NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is able to move and unfold as intended. (Credits: NASA/Chris Gunn)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In the latest not shocking, totally expected news out of Washington, NASA’s troubled James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has a very low chance of meeting its March 2021 launch date.

Exactly how low? Twelve percent.

That means the chance of JWST not making the launch date is….well, you do the math.

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Orion Makes Significant Progress, Awaits Ride to the Moon

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s Orion crew vehicle has made good progress over the past year, with the completion of a launch abort test and thermal vacuum testing on the spacecraft scheduled to an automated flight test around the moon next year, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Although Orion has suffered delays and budget overruns during development, the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send it to the moon is even more behind schedule due to development problems, the report found.

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