According to foreign media reports,A new audit finds that NASA still has difficulties managing the development of its next-generation large rocket, the space launch system (SLS).The report is the latest in a series of denunciations issued by NASA's inspector general. For many years, the inspector general has been warning about rocket plans and budgets.
SLS is a core part of NASA's Artemis program. The project plans to return humans to the moon and send the first woman to the surface by 2024. Once completed, SLS will become the most powerful rocket in the world, capable of launching more than 200000 pounds of objects into low earth orbit.
Since SLS was crucial to NASA's lunar exploration programme, the Agency's Inspector General conducted a comprehensive assessment of contracts for all major parts of the rocket. Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman, three government contractors, are now developing the rockets. Among them, boeing is responsible for most of the rocket's research and development, Aerojet is responsible for manufacturing engines, and northrop is responsible for manufacturing boosters. The report states that all three contractors have experienced technical problems and setbacks, which have forced the cost of $2 billion to increase, while the original two-year timetable has had to be delayed. The overall SLS plan is already out of budget, with a 33% delay compared with the 2019 baseline data NASA provided to Congress. It is reported that this proportion may continue to rise to 43% as more planning delays occur.
NASA had hoped the rocket would make its debut in 2017. But Boeing didn't finish building the core rocket until earlier this year, and now it's shipped to Mississippi for testing. NASA had been planning to launch SLS in November this year for the first time, but NASA officials admit that SLS will not be launched until next year at the earliest.
At the same time, the cost of the project is increasing rapidly. As of December 2019, the total cost of SLS plan has reached US $14.8 billion, which is expected to increase to US $17 billion by the end of this year, according to the inspector general. Of that, $6 billion has not been reported or tracked. In any case, the total cost is 60% higher than NASA's initial estimate of $10.8 billion in 2014, the audit said. If completed by the 2021 deadline, the cost of the project could rise to $18.3 billion. According to the audit report, if the second flight of SLS is delayed to 2023, the whole project may reach 22.8 billion US dollars by then.
He blamed the problems on technical problems, poor management and poor performance of NASA contractors. NASA range of SLS is understood to have been adjusted, the agency has changed the vehicle design of various upcoming missions. Furthermore, the Inspector General warned against the continued payment of incentive fees to Boeing and other contractors by NASA despite missing deadlines and poor performance. Boeing and NASA blame their poor performance on the fact that 50 years have passed since someone invented a rocket of this size, and that expertise has become very weak.
NASA's inspector general and NASA's accountability bureau have been warning for years that SLS programs are poorly managed. Audit after audit raised questions about NASA's rocket launch schedule and pointed out Boeing's flaws in the way it managed the project. This special report is no doubt a big blow to Boeing. Just a few months ago, another spaceship CST-100 starliner that the company is developing carried out an unsuccessful first flight for NASA.
In response to the audit report, NASA agreed to make all changes recommended by the inspector general and planned to develop a new timeline for the project's progress.
Boeing says it learned a lot in developing SLS. "The hard won experience gained in the initial SLS development process has brought significant savings and efficiency to subsequent development and production. We are committed to supporting NASA's vision of a lunar landing in 2024. "
As for whether the SLS project can be completed by next year's deadline, only time can give the answer.