SLS and Orion: April 2020 Archives

GAO: Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, GAO

"To provide the Congress with the necessary insight into program affordability, ensure its ability to effectively monitor total program costs and execution, and facilitate investment decisions, the NASA Administrator should direct the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to establish separate cost and schedule baselines for each additional capability that encompass all life-cycle costs, to include operations and sustainment. NASA intends to use the increased capabilities of the SLS, Orion, and Ground Systems Development and Operations efforts well into the future and has chosen to estimate costs associated with achieving those capabilities. When NASA cannot fully specify costs due to lack of well-defined missions or flight manifests, forecast a cost estimate range--including life-cycle costs--having minimum and maximum boundaries. These baselines or ranges should be reported to Congress annually via the agency's budget submission."

"NASA stated that it is in discussions with Russia to obtain additional seats on its Soyuz spacecraft for NASA crew as a contingency plan. NASA is also providing Extra-Vehicular Activity and robotics training for a subset of cosmonauts to support U.S. Operating Segment operations, and looking at a possible extension of the duration of the Space X Demonstration 2 crewed test flight. In November 2019, NASA reported that it completed its actions for this recommendation. However, while NASA is working on potential solutions, there is no contingency plan in place. To fully implement this recommendation, NASA needs to provide documentation of its contingency plan."

GAO Report: NASA: Assessments of Major Projects, GAO

"The National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) portfolio of major projects continued to experience significant cost and schedule growth this year and the performance is expected to worsen. Since GAO last reported on the portfolio in May 2019, cost growth was approximately 31 percent over project baselines--the third consecutive year that cost growth has worsened after a period of decline. The average launch delay was 12 months, compared to 13 months last year.

Additional cost growth and schedule delays are likely after NASA establishes a new launch date for Artemis I--an uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System, Orion crew capsule, and associated ground systems. Further, in 2019, GAO found that the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs have underreported cost growth. GAO recommended that SLS calculate cost growth based on costs that are currently included in the first mission and that the Orion program update its cost estimate to reflect the schedule agreed to in its baseline. Both recommendations still require action to address. Looking ahead, NASA will continue to face significant cost and schedule risks as it undertakes complex efforts to return to the moon under an aggressive time frame."


"In addition, Boeing officials indicated the [SLS] core stage is the largest liquid hydrogen fueled rocket stage ever built and the green run test will be the first time the stage is filled with liquid hydrogen. Contractor officials indicated that one of the top remaining technical risks to the green run test is that the core stage may develop leaks when it is filled. ... According to program officials, Boeing underestimated both the complexity of [SLS] core stage engine section assembly and the time and manpower that would be needed to complete the core stage effort. As a result, the estimated stages development cost has increased by about $1.4 billion and the stages contract effort now exceeds the contract's negotiated cost ceiling."

"The [Orion] program has reported development cost growth of 5.6 percent; however, the program has not completed a cost estimate that supports its baseline schedule. ... According to program officials--in addition to the ESM delays--the Orion prime contractor has been underperforming and is in the process of renegotiating the contract due to exceeding its period of performance."



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This page is an archive of entries in the SLS and Orion category from April 2020.

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