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’s Exploration Ground Systems Make Progress as SLS/Orion Launch Slips

A liquid hydrogen storage tank is photographed at Launch Pad 39B on Nov. 8, 2019, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. (Credits: NASA/Ben Smegelsky)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) required for NASA’s Artemis moon program are making progress as the first flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft continues to slip into the future.

“According to officials, most of the infrastructure needed for the Artemis I is nearing operational readiness. Currently, the program plans to finish the system acceptance and operational readiness reviews for vehicle stacking in September 2020,” according to a new assessment by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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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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New SLS Worry: Leaks

NASA’s Ground Transportation team guides NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket’s completed core stage from NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans to the agency’s Pegasus barge on Jan. 8. (Credits: NASA/Tyler Martin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of NASA’s massive Space Launch System (SLS) has a depressingly familiar ring to it. Tell me if you’ve heard this before:

  • schedule continues to slip
  • costs continue to rise
  • core stage could develop fuel leaks.

Yeah, that does sound famil– Wait…WHAT?!?

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House Science Committee Members Request GAO Review of ISS National Lab

WASHINGTON, April 1, 2020 (House Science Committee PR) – Today,  Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK) along with Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Chairwoman Kendra Horn (D-OK) and Ranking Member Brian Babin (R-TX) sent a letter to Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene Dodaro requesting a broad examination of the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space’s (CASIS) performance, management, and governance structure. CASIS is a non-profit organization that currently manages the International Space Station National Laboratory (ISSNL).

In the letter, the Committee leaders express longstanding concerns regarding CASIS’s use of the its ISSNL resource allocation, its internal governance structures, and its transparency and accountability to NASA and Congress, including those identified in a recently released Independent Review Team report.  

“The unique environment offered by the ISSNL is an invaluable resource to facilitate research and development,” said the Committee Chairs and Ranking Members in the letter. “Congress has sought to encourage commercial and cross-agency partnerships as one path to the full utilization of this resource, but CASIS’s organizational struggles appear to have undermined progress. As Congress addresses broader questions surrounding the ISS, its ongoing mission, and the future of NASA-supported research and development in low Earth orbit, it is imperative to ensure that an effective and accountable entity is in place to manage the full range of activities conducted through the ISSNL.”

A copy of the full letter can be found here.

GAO: Accelerating Commercial Crew Schedule Poses Risks

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s plan to move up the start of operational crew missions to the International Space Station (ISS) by Boeing and SpaceX could pose serious safety risks, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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GAO: More Webb Space Telescope Delays Look Likely

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has taken yet another look at NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, and the results aren’t real good.

“As of October 2019, the project had used about 76 percent of its available schedule reserve and no longer plans to launch in November 2020,” the report stated. “The project is now managing to a March 2021 launch date but estimates only a 12 percent likelihood that this date will be achieved. NASA plans to reassess the launch date in the spring of 2020. “

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GAO: DOD Needs Plan to Implement Wide-band Satellite Communications Strategy

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Department of Defense (DOD) needs to create a comprehensive plan for developing a hybrid military-commercial system that will handle wide-band communications, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

The 2017 defense authorization act required that GAO review DOD’s ongoing assessment of alternatives (AOA) for future wide-band services. GAO found the department conducted a comprehensive assessment in line with best practices that included input from all stakeholders.

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GAO: NASA Lunar Plans Lack Cost Estimate, Risk Integration Challenges

Artist’s conception of astronaut in an advanced spacesuit working on the moon. (Credit; NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

In March, Vice President Mike Pence said the Trump Administration would use “any means necessary” to accomplish the goal of landing American astronauts on the moon by 2024.

Those means apparently did not include having NASA produce a cost estimate for the first landing mission known as Artemis III. And that has the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concerned.

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NASA Struggles with Shortage of Skilled Workers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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]

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