NASA Mission Failures Due to Faulty Aluminum Scam

Pablo Tucker
May 5, 2019

A metals manufacturer faked test results and provided faulty materials to NASA, causing more than US$700 million in losses and two failed satellite launch missions, according to an investigation by the United States space agency.

An Oregon-based aluminum extrusion manufacturer has agreed to pay $46 million to NASA, the Department of Defense and other customers to settle charges related to a 19-year fraud scheme that ultimately resulted in two failed NASA missions.

The two launches, one of NASA's Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and another for a satellite called Glory which would have observed aerosol pollution, failed within three years of each other.

"NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain".

Sapa, which has since changed its name to Hydro Extrusion Portland, agreed to pay $US46 ($66) million to the USA government and other commercial customers - which doesn't even come close to the $US700 ($997) million NASA lost as a result of Taurus XL failures.

Norman added that the fraud cost NASA not just money, but they also lost years of scientific work because of the faked testing results, explaining that the agency's trust was "severely violated". Test results revealing that aluminium parts failed to meet tensile strength requirements were altered so that they showed the parts passing certification.

"When testing results area unit altered and certifications area unit provided incorrectly, missions fail", aforementioned Jim Norman, director for launch services at independent agency in Washington.

The launch vehicle fairing - a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere - failed to separate on command.

A NASA investigation has found that one of its suppliers for rocket parts has been defrauding the space agency for nearly 20 years. Commenting on the investigaiton oucome, manda Mitskevich, LSP program manager at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida states: "It has taken a long time to get here, involving years of investigation and testing, but as of today, it has been worth every minute, and I am extremely pleased with the entire team's efforts". NASA has recommended that both companies be permanently banned from any government contracting. Now, it's prevented from ever entering into a contract with the US government again, in addition to fines of $46 million paid to NASA, the Department of Defense, and others.

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