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Only NASA Wants To Buy Its Own SLS Rocket
Only NASA Wants To Buy Its Own SLS Rocket

Keith’s note: According to the new NASA OIG Report NASA’s Transition of the Space Launch System to a Commercial Services Contract“NASA’s ability to reduce SLS costs and negotiate a fixed-price contract with DST will be impeded by a lack of competition for heavy-lift launch services, a characteristic that historically has helped drive down costs. Further, NASA has permitted current SLS contractors to incorporate limited rights data into the design of the core stage and Exploration Upper Stage, effectively blocking other contractors from competing to build the SLS system. That said, inclusion of several Federal Acquisition Regulation provisions in EPOC such as incentive fees may assist NASA in contract negotiations, mitigate the impact to schedule and cost overruns, and ensure remaining data rights are retained to the fullest extent possible by the government. Finally, while DST intends to reduce costs by increasing economies of scale by building more SLSs, its efforts to find customers outside of NASA have been unsuccessful to date. Although the SLS is the only launch vehicle currently available that meets Artemis mission needs, in the next 3 to 5 years other human-rated commercial alternatives that are lighter, cheaper, and reusable may become available. Therefore, NASA may want to consider whether other commercial options should be a part of its mid- to long-term plans to support its ambitious space exploration goals.”

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  • NASA Watch
  • October 12, 2023
Yet Another Report Says NASA Has No Idea What SLS Costs
Yet Another Report Says NASA Has No Idea What SLS Costs

Keith’s note: According to a GAO report issued today: Space Launch System: Cost Transparency Needed to Monitor Program Affordability“: “Because the original SLS version’s cost and schedule commitments, or baselines, were tied to the launch of Artemis I, ongoing production and other costs needed to sustain the program going forward are not monitored. Instead, NASA created a rolling 5-year estimate of production and operations costs to ensure that the costs fit within NASA’s overall budget. However, neither the estimate nor the annual budget request track costs by Artemis mission or for recurring production items. As a result, the 5-year estimate and the budget requests are poor measures of cost performance over time. In 2014, GAO recommended that NASA develop a cost baseline that captures production costs for the missions beyond Artemis I that fly SLS Block I. NASA intends to fly SLS Block I for Artemis II, planned for 2024, and Artemis III, planned for 2025. NASA partially concurred, but has not yet implemented this recommendation. A cost baseline would increase the transparency of ongoing costs associated with SLS production and provide necessary insights to monitor program affordability.” Here are More posts in the continuing saga of what SLS actually costs. As if NASA will ever actually know who much these things cost. Why start now?

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  • NASA Watch
  • September 7, 2023
Only NASA Could Make A Reusable Engine Expendable – And Cost More
Only NASA Could Make A Reusable Engine Expendable – And Cost More

Keith’s note: According to a new NASA OIG Report NASA’s Management of the Space Launch System Booster and Engine Contracts: the complexity of developing, updating, and integrating new systems along with heritage components proved to be much greater than anticipated, resulting in the completion of only 5 of 16 engines under the Adaptation contract and added scope and cost increases to the Boosters contract. Additionally, Marshall Space Flight Center procurement officials who oversee all four contracts are challenged by inadequate staff, their lack of experience, and limited opportunities to review contract documentation. Marshall procurement officials also encountered significant issues with the award of BPOC, the follow-on booster contract, which started as an undefinitized letter contract in which terms, specifications, and price were not agreed upon before performance began. We found NASA took 499 days to definitize the letter contract, which is far outside the 180-day federal guidance. As a result, we question $19.8 million in award fees it received for the 11 unfinished engines which were subsequently moved to the RS-25 Restart and Production contract and may now be eligible to receive additional award fees. Faced with continuing cost and schedule increases, NASA is undertaking efforts to make the SLS more affordable. Under the RS-25 Restart and Production contract, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne are projecting manufacturing cost savings of 30 percent per engine starting with production of the seventh of 24 new engines. However, those savings do not capture overhead and other costs, which we currently estimate at $2.3 billion. Moreover, NASA currently cannot track per-engine costs to assess whether they are meeting these projected saving targets.”

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  • NASA Watch
  • May 25, 2023
The Most Powerful Rocket – Ever
The Most Powerful Rocket – Ever

Keith’s note: This is not a CGI image. It is an actual SpaceX aerial photo of a Starship and its booster on the launch pad. In a month or so NASA PAO will need to delete the “most powerful rocket in the world” phrase from their sound bite collection since this rocket will utterly eclipse whatever it is that SLS weighs, thrusts, or throws – and it will certainly chop a few zeroes off of what it costs to launch – to say nothing of the whole re-launch thing. Ad Astra y’all.

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  • NASA Watch
  • January 12, 2023
What About Those Fading Batteries On SLS CubeSats?
What About Those Fading Batteries On SLS CubeSats?

Keith’s note: Once upon a time NASA was quick to hype the use of SLS as a platform for launching cubesat payloads. But Artemis launch delays have threatened to fly with dead/dying cubesat batteries. Based on media briefing comments NASA doesn’t seem to be especially interested in making sure that these payloads have good batteries. So much for the hype.

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  • NASA Watch
  • September 2, 2022
Artemis I Is On Its Launch Pad
Artemis I Is On Its Launch Pad

On Wednesday at around 7:30 a.m. EDT the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft for the Artemis I mission arrived atop Launch Complex 39B at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida after a nearly 10-hour journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building. More: Artemis I Moon Rocket Arrives at Launch Pad

  • NASA Watch
  • August 17, 2022
NASA's Latest Launch Date Guesses For SLS

Years late, billions over budget, and after multiple paint jobs, #NASA says that the latest notional 2022 launch dates for #Artemis 1 are 29 Aug, 2 Sep, and 5 Sep #CaveatEmptor pic.twitter.com/R7AzJM3DTc — NASA Watch (@NASAWatch) July 20, 2022

  • NASA Watch
  • July 20, 2022
OIG: NASA Is Not In Compliance With The Payment Integrity Information Act
OIG: NASA Is Not In Compliance With The Payment Integrity Information Act

NASA GAO Report: NASA’s Compliance with the Payment Integrity Information Act for Fiscal Year 2021 “We found that NASA was not in compliance with PIIA for FY 2021 because it did not publish improper payment estimates for the Space Launch Sy stem (SLS) program in the accompanying materials to the AFR as required by the statute. In our FY 2019 improper payment compliance audit, we reported that NASA failed to […]

  • NASA Watch
  • June 28, 2022
NASA OIG Report On ML-2: What A Fine Mess
NASA OIG Report On ML-2: What A Fine Mess

NASA OIG: NASA’s Management Of The Mobile Launcher 2 Contract “The ML-2’s substantial cost increases and schedule delays can be attributed primarily to Bechtel’s poor performance on the contract, with more than 70 percent ($421.1 million) of the contract’s cost increases and over 1.5 years of delays related to its performance. For example, Bechtel underestimated the ML-2 project’s scope and complexity, experienced ML-2 weight management challenges, and experienced staffing turnover […]

  • NASA Watch
  • June 9, 2022
(Update) NASA Just Told Congress That Webb Has Not Been Launched Yet
(Update) NASA Just Told Congress That Webb Has Not Been Launched Yet

Statement by NASA Administrator Nelson – Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations United States Senate, NASA “Later this year, NASA will launch the James Webb Space Telescope (Webb), the largest and most complex space science observatory ever built. Webb is an infrared telescope designed to observe the farthest objects, broadening and transforming our understanding of the early universe. It will see the light from the […]

  • NASA Watch
  • May 4, 2022