WASHINGTON — The preliminary components of NASA’s lunar Gateway are going through price overruns and delays primarily as a result of NASA has modified the necessities of this system since awarding contracts final 12 months.
A Nov. 10 report by NASA’s Workplace of Inspector Basic (OIG) concluded that delays to this system, created by adjustments NASA made to its plans for the event of the Gateway, make it unlikely that the Gateway can be accessible to assist the company’s deliberate 2024 lunar touchdown on the Artemis 3 mission.
NASA awarded a contract to Maxar in Might 2019 for the primary factor of the Gateway, the Energy and Propulsion Factor (PPE), which can present energy and electrical propulsion. In July 2019, NASA introduced its intent to award a sole-source contract to Northrop Grumman for the Habitation and Logistics Outpost (HALO), which can serve a habitation module and docking node.
Because the contract awards, NASA has modified necessities for the general Gateway program and the 2 modules. The largest change was NASA’s determination earlier this 12 months to mix the PPE and HALO and launch them collectively, reasonably than launch them individually and have them dock in lunar orbit.
NASA billed that call as one which each decreased danger and prices. “We’ve saved some huge cash by going forward and placing these collectively on a single launch car, in addition to knocked down each technical and operational danger for this system,” Doug Loverro, on the time NASA affiliate administrator for human exploration and operations, mentioned in Might.
The OIG report, although, discovered issues with this variation. “Nevertheless, it has additionally contributed to price will increase resulting from technical adjustments to the PPE, an elevated launch danger, and potential efficiency shortfalls primarily because of the elevated mass of each components that slows the electrical propulsion transit to a lunar orbit,” it said.
That call price Maxar $27.5 million it had already paid to SpaceX to launch the PPE beneath a business contract, which it could solely partially recoup from the federal government. The OIG report additionally raised considerations that the mixed PPE/HALO stack may be too massive to suit on business launch automobiles and stop HALO from carrying cargo for preliminary Gateway actions, though earlier this 12 months NASA mentioned it was assured at the least one launch car might assist the mission.
The report said that NASA’s present estimated launch date for the PPE and HALO is Might 2024. Nevertheless, to be in place in lunar orbit to assist an Artemis 3 mission in late 2024, the Gateway modules must launch no later than February 2024. That schedule, furthermore, lacks the really helpful six months of schedule margin. Due to this fact, OIG concluded, “the Gateway Program should compensate for a scarcity of 9 months of schedule with a view to meet the required launch date — a feat which, in our judgment, is probably going inconceivable.”
That schedule challenge could also be a moot level. NASA officers said earlier this 12 months they didn’t require using the Gateway for the Artemis 3 touchdown, as a substitute having Orion dock instantly with the lunar lander in orbit across the moon. Furthermore, a 2024 touchdown now seems in jeopardy due to funding shortfalls for NASA’s Human Touchdown System program in addition to potential coverage adjustments by the incoming Biden administration.
Each PPE and HALO produce other issues that OIG concluded have been due largely to altering NASA necessities. The PPE, awarded as a fixed-price contract, has nonetheless suffered $78.5 million in price will increase, primarily in response to altering NASA necessities.
Maxar was additionally unable to finalize a subcontract with Aerojet Rocketdyne, which was to offer the PPE’s electrical propulsion system, as a result of growth issues with that system made Aerojet unwilling to just accept a fixed-price contract. Maxar is now working instantly with NASA on the electrical thrusters, a change OIG expects to extend prices.
With HALO, NASA took far longer than deliberate to outline its contract with Northrop due to the choice to launch it with PPE in addition to altering HALO necessities. NASA is not planning to develop a second habitation module for Gateway, forcing adjustments to the design of HALO. Northrop continued to work on the undertaking throughout this time beneath a cost-plus association.
NASA justified its determination to make a sole-source award to Northrop as a result of it concluded it was the one firm who might have HALO prepared in time to assist a 2024 mission based mostly on its work beneath an earlier habitat growth program. That earlier program, although, “produced a mock-up reasonably than a real prototype,” OIG said, due to a scarcity of particular mission necessities, contributing the delay in finalizing a contract.
“Provided that NASA will doubtless be unable to make use of the Gateway to assist the 2024 lunar touchdown,” OIG concluded, “using full and open competitors for HALO would have positioned the Company to extra completely decide its necessities in preparation for a solicitation, and probably scale back the prices of HALO growth.”
OIG supplied a number of suggestions concerning contract necessities and schedules, which NASA accepted in a response included within the report. However, OIG warned that NASA’s present method “will increase the chance of future schedule delays and extra price will increase.”