Boeing Co.’s construction of the largest rocket in NASA’s history is projected to cost $8.9bn — double the initial budget. While taxpayer-funded cost overruns are de rigueur when talking about the U.S. military industrial complex, the massive aerospace company is also two years behind schedule, a gap that could widen further, according to an audit by NASA’s inspector general.
The company’s poor performance on the massive Space Launch System means NASA is likely to miss the launch window of December 2019 to June 2020 for its planned Exploration Mission-1, the first flight of the SLS and Orion spacecraft, the report said. The rocket and Orion — being built by Lockheed Martin Corp. — are designed to be America’s new deep-space exploration system, launching first to the moon and eventually deeper into the solar system. Since the end of the space shuttle era, Americans have had to hitch a ride with Russians to get into space.
As of August, NASA has spent $5.3bn, out of a $6.2bn budget, for the Boeing contract, and the agency said it expects Boeing to reach the contract’s value by early 2019 — albeit without even having delivered the rocket’s core stage. From June 2014 to August of this year, Chicago-based Boeing spent $600m more than planned on developing Core Stages 1 and 2, and NASA officials confirmed that Boeing spent an additional, unplanned $226m in the current fiscal year.
What are the reasons for the delay and cost overruns? “Management, technical, and infrastructure issues driven by Boeing’s poor performance,” the inspector general wrote in the report, released Wednesday. NASA “lacks visibility” into the stages’ costs because all three parts of the contract are co-mingled, “contrary to current federal guidance.”
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