Residents Accuse NASA of Reneging on Agreement to Clean up Toxic Mess at California Rocket Test Site

Santa Susana Field Laboratory in California.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA is planning to spend tens of billions of dollars returning astronauts to the moon and searching for life on Mars and other worlds, but when it comes to cleaning up a toxic mess it created here on Earth, the space agency says it just can’t afford it.

NASA has finalized a plan to conduct the least extensive and least costly cleanup of contaminated soil and water at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) in southern California. The space agency tested rocket engines there for decades before closing the facility in 2006.

The decision, which NASA announced in the Federal Register on Friday, has angered local residents who say the space agency is reneging on its commitment to do a full cleanup of the heavily polluted site in Ventura County. They fear toxins left in the soil will leach into local groundwater and endanger the health of residents.

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IG Report: NASA’s SOFIA Not Meeting Expectations

SOFIA flying observatory (Credit: NASA-Jim Ross)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA’s flying Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) has struggled to meet its scientific expectations due to a lengthy development delay and a series of technical, operational and managerial challenges, according to a new audit from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

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WSJ: Former Top NASA Official Under Criminal Investigation in Lunar Lander Procurement Case

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into whether a former senior NASA official broke federal procurement law by updating a Boeing official on the status of the company’s bid to develop a human lunar lander.

The grand jury investigation involves communication between NASA’s former head of human spaceflight, Doug Loverro, and Boeing Senior Vice President Jim Chilton.

Loverro, who abruptly resigned from NASA in May, is alleged to have improperly told Chilton that Boeing was about to be eliminated from a competition for human landing system development contracts because the company’s bid was deficient

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Audit Says NASA Hid $17 Billion in Orion-related Costs

Orion undergoing testing at Plum Brook Station. (Credit: NASA–Marvin Smith)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

A new audit of the Orion lunar crew vehicle has found that NASA has excluded $17 billion in program‐related costs from its budget estimate, and the space agency has paid “overly generous” performance awards to prime contractor Lockheed Martin despite the program being over budget and behind schedule.

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NASA Gets Failing Grade on Information Security

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA has failed to implement an effective cyber security program even though the valuable technical and intellectual capital it possesses “presents a high-value target for hackers and criminals,” according to a new report from the agency’s Office of Inspector General (IG).

“NASA has not implemented an effective Agency-wide information security program. [System Security Plan (SSP)] documentation for all six information systems we reviewed contained numerous instances of incomplete, inaccurate, or missing information,” the report stated.

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Congress Seeks Answers on Sudden Resignation of NASA Human Spaceflight Head

Douglas Loverro (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics says she wants answers following the abrupt resignation of NASA’s head of human spaceflight, Douglas Loverro, on the eve of a crucial human flight test of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

“I am deeply concerned over this sudden resignation, especially eight days before the first scheduled launch of US astronauts on US soil in almost a decade. Under this Administration, we’ve seen a pattern of abrupt departures that have disrupted our efforts at human space flight,” tweeted Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.)

“The bottom line is that, as the Committee that oversees NASA, we need answers,” she added.

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Mobile Launchers: NASA’s Billion Dollar Bungle

The VAB is the large building located in the upper left corner of the photograph and ML-1 is the tall tower-like structure resting on the crawler-transporter located in the lower right corner. (Credit: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest audit of NASA’s troubled Artemis lunar program had some good news and some bad news regarding the mobile launch (ML) platforms that will be used for flights of the Space Launch System (SLS) that will send American astronauts back to the moon.

“After nearly a decade of development, ML-1 is nearing completion in support of the launch of Artemis I, the first integrated, uncrewed flight test of the SLS and the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion),” the report from NASA Office of Inspector General (IG) said. (Full Report)

And now, the bad news.

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Audit: SLS 33-43 Percent Over Budget, First Launch Slips to 2021

The first Artemis rocket stage is guided toward NASA’s Pegasus barge Jan. 8 ahead of its forthcoming journey to NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. (Credits: NASA)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

The latest audit of NASA’s troubled Space Launch System (SLS) finds the program is now even more behind schedule and over budget than previously thought, with the space agency failing to fully account to Congress for almost $6 billion in program costs.

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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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Report: NASA Needs to Improve Management of Major Projects

An artist’s concept of the 2012 Mars Curiosity Landing. Mars 2020 will use a nearly identical landing system, but with added precision from the Lander Vision System. (Credits: NASA Image /JPL-Caltech)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

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]

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NASA Has Long Way to Go to Improve IT Management, Security

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

If NASA could land a man on the moon, why can’t it manage information technology (IT) effectively?

That is the basic question NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) raised in a recent report that identified IT management and cyber security as one of the top seven challenges faced by the space agency. [Full Report]

“Our concerns with NASA’s IT governance and security are long-standing and reoccurring,” the report stated. “For more than two decades NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) has struggled to implement an effective IT governance structure that aligns authority and responsibility commensurate with the Agency’s overall mission.”

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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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