NASA OIG: Planned Artemis Launch Dates Are "Highly Unlikely"

Artemis Status Update: NASA OIG

"While NASA had been working for the past decade to return astronauts to the Moon, in March 2019 the White House directed the Agency to accelerate its timetable by approximately 4 years in order to land on the Moon by the end of 2024. Although the new Administration has expressed support of the Artemis program, it has not spoken in any detail about its human exploration plans or its intent to maintain the goal of a 2024 lunar landing. .... Nonetheless, the Agency faces significant challenges that we believe will make its current plan to launch Artemis I in 2021 and ultimately land astronauts on the Moon by the end of 2024 highly unlikely."

"... At the time of our November 2020 report, the Gateway program faced challenges related to the PPE's propulsion system development, vehicle weight, and mass levels, as well as defining requirements for the HALO component to avoid schedule delays and cost increases."

"... In January 2021, the program reported no schedule margin for a January 2024 launch with the PPE component facing the same challenges reported in November 2020. Combined with issues in HALO's thermal control systems, as of March 2021 the program faces up to 12 months of schedule risk."

"... As we reported in November 2020, the Agency suggested that an integration on the ground and a co-manifested launch of the PPE and HALO would also result in time savings. However, the requirements changes resulting from co-manifesting the PPE and HALO launches are not certain to result in the Agency's suggested savings and instead have led to schedule delays."

"... NASA's plan was to "downselect" from three contractors to one or two to begin the HLS development phase with award of a development contract in April 2021. According to NASA officials, the wide gulf in funding between what the program requested and what it received in FY 2021 jeopardized the Agency's plan to select two contractors to build the HLS. At the time, officials expressed concern that selecting a single contractor would result in a lack of redundancy and potenially higher, less sustainable future HLS costs due to a lack of competition. Nevertheless, on April 16, 2021, NASA announced award of a $2.9 billion contract to SpaceX for the HLS. Despite selecting a single contractor, the reduction in funding will likely slow HLS development and extend its schedule. Given the lunar lander's central role, any development delays could jeopardize NASA's plans to land astronauts on the Moon in 2024 or the foreseeable future."

"... Although the new Administration has publicly expressed support for the Artemis missions, it has not weighed in on the Agency's current plans for a lunar landing by the end of 2024. Nonetheless, achieving any date close to this ambitious goal--and reaching Mars in the 2030s--will require strong, consistent, sustained leadership from the President, Congress, and NASA, as well as stable and timely funding."

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on April 19, 2021 12:35 PM.

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