Boeing struggles to meet production goals for NASA’s next big rocket

A rendering of NASA’s new Space Launch System

NASA contracted with The Boeing Company (Boeing) in 2012 to build two SLS Core Stages-that is, the first stage of the rocket consisting of the fuel tanks and supporting infrastructure-and later an Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), a new and more powerful second stage created to increase the SLS's upmass capability.

NASA's Office of Inspector General is tasked with investigating instances of potential fraud, waste and abuse of programs that impact the agency.

The much-anticipated premiere of NASA's Space Launch System rocket will likely face yet another push to the right, this time beyond mid-2020, as the program faces billions in cost overruns and years in delays, according to a scathing audit released Wednesday by the agency's Office of Inspector General.

"Boeing's cost and schedule challenges are likely to worsen, given that the SLS has yet to undergo its "Green Run Test" - a major milestone that integrates and tests the Core Stage components", NASA said in a summary of the report.

NASA, though, did not escape blame for the SLS core stage problems in the report.

The larger figure is double the contract's initial budget. Overall, there are a number of top-line findings in this report, which cast a mostly if not completely negative light on Boeing and, to a lesser extent, NASA and its most expensive spaceflight project.

"At its current rate, we project Boeing will expend at least $8.9 billion through 2021 - double the amount initially planned - while delivery of the first Core Stage has slipped 2 1⁄2 years from June 2017 to December 2019 and may slip further", the OIG said. To achieve this goal, NASA is once again pursuing space travel beyond low Earth orbit, and key to this effort is development of the Space Launch System (SLS)-a two-stage, heavy-lift rocket that will launch the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion) into space. Consequently, in light of the Project's development delays, we have concluded NASA will be unable to meet its EM-1 launch window now scheduled between December 2019 and June 2020.

The SLS core stage is the central element of the SLS, consisting of a modified version of the space shuttle's external tank with four RS-25 engines mounted in its base. Considering the SLS Program's cost overages and schedule delays, we question almost $64 million of the award fees already provided to Boeing. Even with additional funding, NASA's estimated first SLS launch in June 2020 is questionable now. In addition, development of command and control hardware and software necessary for Core Stage testing is 2 years behind schedule, while equipment-related mishaps and an extreme weather event contributed to cost and schedule delays.

There is a rather remarkable section of the report that discusses the reasons for these delays. Delivery of the programme's first core stage has already slipped two-and-a-half years to December 2019, the report said.

The inspector general appeared to be having none of this, however. "By the end of FY 2015, the company had received $706 million, only $53 million less than requested for its work to build two core stages", the report states. NASA had wanted to get the SLS in the air by late 2017 at a cost of $5-7 billion. "According to NASA officials", the report stated, "the schedule slippage can not be explained by a lack of adequate funding".

In response to a query from Ars, Boeing issued the following statement: "An unprecedented rocket program has inherent challenges; developing the first unit of a system that will safely carry humans into space, even more so". "NASA had rated Boeing's performance as "excellent" in three periods and "very good" in three others and awarded it $323 million or 90 percent of the available award and incentive fees", the report stated.

To meet the schedule for an uncrewed test flight around the moon by 2020, followed by a crewed flight in 2022 and the development of a new upper-stage booster for flights after that, the SLS program will have to be given a "major increase in funding" and renegotiate NASA's contract with Boeing, the report says. And the price tag for the biggest USA rocket ever?

"The SLS is the largest launch system in the history of space flight", Gerstenmaier's response states. "The design, development, manufacturing, test, and operations of the system are highly complex and represent a national investment in a long-term commitment to deep space exploration". But it seems an increasingly hard sell after SpaceX developed the not-quite-as-large-or-complex Falcon Heavy rocket for $500 million. To be clear, the vice president has been publicly supportive of the SLS rocket to date.

Related News:

  • India vs West Indies: Umesh Yadav Takes Career-Best Test Bowling Figures

    India vs West Indies: Umesh Yadav Takes Career-Best Test Bowling Figures

    Despite much of the top order gone, Chase didn't panic as he set about rebuilding with Holder, who matched him for strokes. The tourists made two changes with Holder replacing Keemo Paul and spinner Jomel Warrican replacing Sherman Lewis.
    Bigg Boss 12 Day 25: Srishty’s Aggression Drives the Others Away

    Bigg Boss 12 Day 25: Srishty’s Aggression Drives the Others Away

    The actress further said Sreesanth doesn't respect women as much as he pretends to in the Bigg Boss 12 house. Dipika and Nehha were chosen from Team Singles while Urvashi and Jasleen were picked from the jodis .
    'White House Wants to Kill Me': Maduro Accuses US of Assassination Plot

    'White House Wants to Kill Me': Maduro Accuses US of Assassination Plot

    Venezuela's opposition says Maduro lobs ludicrous accusations at enemies to deflect from his own incompetence. Maduro contended that he is the victim of an "economic war" led by USA -backed adversaries.
  • Thierry Henry confirmed as new Monaco head coach

    Thierry Henry confirmed as new Monaco head coach

    Having started my footballing career with this great club, it seems like fate that I will now begin my managerial career here too. Former Arsenal and FC Barcelona striker Thierry Henry has landed his first head coach role at one of France's biggest teams.

    Hidden drugs and danger lurk in over-the-counter supplements, study finds

    When it comes to supplements that promise to aid in weight loss, muscle gain or libido enhancement, "it's the Wild West", said Dr. He said these are fringe products, often made by fly-by-night manufacturers and sold on the Internet or in convenience stores.
    Astronauts survive Soyuz rocket emergency landing

    Astronauts survive Soyuz rocket emergency landing

    Officials are also investigating the odd hole recently found in a Soyuz spacecraft aboard the International Space Station. German Astronaut Alexander Gerst, who is onboard the ISS , captured these images of the failed Soyuz launch.
  • Vissel Kobe defender suspended for one month for Andres Iniesta incident

    Vissel Kobe defender suspended for one month for Andres Iniesta incident

    The friend, who was planning to watch the match, had messaged Takahashi before kick-off asking whether the midfielder would play. Takahashi's friend revealed the news on Twitter and it was picked up by various local media before he later chose to delete it.
    Destiny 2: Forsaken Will Include Previous Two Expansions Starting Next Week

    Destiny 2: Forsaken Will Include Previous Two Expansions Starting Next Week

    Good news for new players, a kick in the balls for everyone who was forced to buy everything separately so they could play Forsaken .
    Bodies Of 11 Infants Found In Ceiling Of Closed Funeral Home

    Bodies Of 11 Infants Found In Ceiling Of Closed Funeral Home

    In April state inspectors found decomposing bodies in an non-refrigerated garage and a back room of the home, WDIV reported. LARA called the violations "deplorable" at the time. "We have to find out what happened, and why it happened", Bowser said.
  • Matthews, Tavares score 2 each, Maple Leafs beat Stars 7-4

    Matthews, Tavares score 2 each, Maple Leafs beat Stars 7-4

    The top eight ranked players as of October 18th will be invited to compete in a bracket showdown during the Leafs Game Day event. In the end, though, it's about winning. "It's an exciting time for our team, but we've got to get a lot better".
    Vietnam needs further efforts to mitigate climate change

    Vietnam needs further efforts to mitigate climate change

    Failure to do so runs the risk of more heat waves and flood-causing storms and the chances of drought in some regions. Aiming for this lower limit will have "clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems", said the IPCC.
    Black man has police called on him while babysitting white kids

    Black man has police called on him while babysitting white kids

    The woman told police she was concerned about the children's safety, but did not describe any suspicious behavior by Lewis. The list of things black people aren't allowed to do without potentially summoning police involvement continues to grow.

Most liked

First England one-dayer in Sri Lanka washed out
Their last World Cup was not so good for them as they had an early exit without proceeding to the knockout stages. Despite losing the old guard of Sangakkara, Dilshan and Jayawardene, Sri Lanka aren't massively inexperienced.

Pope Francis Accepts Resignation of Cardinal Donald Wuerl Following Sexual Abuse Scandals
Wuerl is also accused of knowing about sexual misconduct by his predecessor in Washington DC , ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick . Francis also asked Wuerl to stay on as administrator until another archbishop is appointed.

49ers omit Colin Kaepernick from photo gallery
He has an active collusion grievance against the league contending owners have conspired to keep him from being signed. Kaepernick defeated Green Bay in the Wild Card round the next season, tallying 325 yards from scrimmage.

Zverev scares ball boy in Shanghai with his intensity
I did everything that I needed to win; focused a lot-focused on my game. "I knew today was going to be a different match". He defeats the tournament's top seed Juan Martin del Potro in the finals, winning in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

Oil prices: IEA, OPEC weigh in with forecasts
Still, the IEA report is the latest government assessment to predict weaker demand ahead and conclude that supply is adequate. Brent crude futures edged up 13 cents to $80.39 a barrel by 0042 GMT.

Germany to extradite suspect in Bulgarian journalist killing 'soon'
The rape and murder of a glamorous Bulgarian television presenter, while tragic, would not normally attract worldwide attention. Bulgaria's chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, said the suspect was already wanted in connection with another rape and murder.

Florida resident surveys 'total devastation' from Hurricane Michael
The US death toll has risen to at least 13 - including five in Virginia and four in Florida - and it's expected to climb. President Donald Trump on Thursday issued a major disaster declaration in the historic storm's wake.

How To Tell If You Were Impacted By Facebook's Latest Hack
In a way, this is good news, given that when Facebook previously said it thought as many as 50 million users had been affected. Access tokens work as digital keys, letting those who hold them log into Facebook accounts without entering a password.

Union Minister Maneka Gandhi Proposes Committee To Handle #MeToo Cases
Several women journalists have come out against M J Akbar, Minister of External Affairs, accusing him of sexual misconduct. The statement said women can report their grievances in cases related to sexual harassment through multiple mechanisms.

New York Yankees SS Didi Gregorius to have Tommy John surgery
The Yankees called the procedure a repeat of the surgery the left-hander has had on the knee previously. They also lost one of their most productive players for at least part of next season.

Brewers reach NL C'ship Series with sweep of Colorado
The Brewers proved ready, as they handled the Cubs and sent their rival to the one-game Wild Card against the Rockies. The Rockies offense fell apart in the series, producing just two runs and 14 hits overall.

Israel halts Gaza fuel deliveries as several Palestinians killed in protests
Prior to the delivery, the P.A.'s refusal to allow fuel into Gaza resulted in as few as four hours per day of electricity. They also seek the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel's founding in 1948.

Severino may have tipped pitches in Game 3 of ALDS
Unfortunately for them, Severino picked a bad time to turn in one of his worst performances of the season. Severino struggled during the outing, an eventual 16-1 loss for the Yankees.

Southgate keeps Sancho in reserve for Croatia revenge mission
The only chance in the first half fell to Dier, who glanced his header against the far post after a Jordan Henderson corner. Both teams lost to group leaders Spain in the last round of matches, giving the Spaniards a six point cushion in group 4.

Family: Young model shot while driving dies
Quayle was on her way to work when she was hit by a bullet, which caused her to lose consciousness and roll into oncoming traffic. Quayle had got into her auto to drive to the dentist's office, where she had found a job to earn money between modeling stunts.