Report: NASA Needs to Improve Oversight of Contracts and Grants

NASA finished assembling the main structural components for the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stage on Sept. 19. Engineers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans fully integrated the last piece of the 212-foot-tall core stage by adding the engine section to the rest of the previously assembled structure. Boeing technicians bolted the engine section to the stage’s liquid hydrogen propellant tank. (Credit: NASA/Steven Seipel)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Between 2014 and 2017, NASA awarded Boeing a total of $64 million in performance awards for its work on the Space Launch System (SLS) despite significant schedule delays and cost overruns in the program.

It was only after the NASA Office of Inspector General (OIG) questioned the propriety of the awards that SLS program officials began “providing Boeing award fees that better reflected actual performance,” the space agency’s watchdog said in a new report.

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NASA Blames Faulty Aluminum for 2 Failed Launches

Glory satellite (Credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA Launch Services Program (LSP) investigators have determined the technical root cause for the Taurus XL launch failures of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and Glory missions in 2009 and 2011, respectively: faulty materials provided by aluminum manufacturer, Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI).

LSP’s technical investigation led to the involvement of NASA’s Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ’s efforts, recently made public, resulted in the resolution of criminal charges and alleged civil claims against SPI, and its agreement to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers. This relates to a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers.

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Company Blamed for Failed $704 Million NASA Missions Pays $46 Million in Fines

Glory satellite (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

An Oregon manufacturer whose defective products NASA alleges caused the launch failures of two climate missions worth $704 million has agreed to pay more than $46 million to the space agency, the Department of Defense (DOD) and others it defrauded.

The Justice Department announced a plea bargain agreement of fraud charges against Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., formerly known as Sapa Profiles Inc. (SPI), and its corporate parent, Hydro Extrusion USA, LLC, formerly known as Sapa Extrusions Inc. (SEI).

The companies admitted to altering the results of tensile tests “designed to ensure the consistency and reliability of aluminum products it provided to U.S. government contractors and other customers,” the Justice Department said in a press release.

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NASA Earth Science Mission Hampered by Budget, Launcher Issues

Earth_from_Orbit
Although NASA’s Earth Science Division is substantially meeting stakeholder’s needs for Earth observation data, the space agency has fallen behind on launching an ambitious series of missions planned out nearly a decade ago, according to an Office of Inspector General (IG) report released last month.

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OSC Rocket Sends Glory Satellite to Bottom of the Pacific — Again

NASA PR — At a news conference following the unsuccessful attempt to place the Glory spacecraft in orbit, a team from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, maker of the Taurus XL rocket, discussed the failure of the rocket’s fairing to separate. The fairing, which covers and protects the spacecraft during launch and ascent, underwent a redesign of its separation system after a similar failure two years ago. The new system has been successfully used on another Orbital launch vehicle several times.

NASA’s Glory mission was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Friday at 5:09:45 a.m. EST.  NASA Launch Director Omar Baez said the countdown and launch went smoothly until the point at which they should have received data indicating that the fairing had separated from the vehicle.

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NASA to Launch Glory Spacecraft on Friday Morning

NASA PR — NASA’s Glory spacecraft is scheduled for launch on Friday, March 4. Technical issues with ground support equipment for the Taurus XL launch vehicle led to the scrub of the original Feb. 23 launch attempt. Those issues have been resolved.

The liftoff from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is targeted for 5:09:43 a.m. EST, in the middle of a 48-second launch window. Spacecraft separation occurs 13 minutes after launch. Coverage of the countdown on the Glory launch blog and on NASA TV will begin on launch day at 3:30 a.m. EST.

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NASA Postpones Glory Launch Until Next Month

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — Preparations for the launch of NASA’s Glory mission from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California have been suspended temporarily. Engineers continue to troubleshoot a malfunction in ground support equipment associated with the Taurus XL rocket. Managers are evaluating possible Glory launch opportunities in early to mid-March.

On Feb. 23, a false indication was received about the rocket’s status after commands were sent approximately 15 minutes before launch to activate the Taurus.

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NASA Reschedules Glory Launch

NASA PR — The launch of NASA’s Glory spacecraft from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is currently planned for no earlier than Friday, Feb. 25 at 5:09 a.m. EST.

Engineers from NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. continue to troubleshoot a technical issue that arose during Wednesday’s initial launch attempt. The target launch date also will ensure personnel get the required rest before entering another countdown.

Coverage of the countdown on the Glory launch blog and on NASA TV will begin on launch day at 3:30 a.m. EST.

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Glory Launch Postponed 24 Hours

USAF SPACE COMMAND: Launch of NASA’s Glory mission spacecraft on a Taurus XL rocket at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., was scrubbed for 24 hours this morning at about the T-11 minute point due to a problem associated with the flight termination system. Engineers still are evaluating the issue.

Good weather is forecast for Thursday. The time for launch attempt tomorrow (Feb. 24) remains the same as today at 2:09:43 a.m. PST.

For the latest updates on Glory, visit: www.nasa.gov/glory