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GAO sides with Blue Origin in launch dispute

New Glenn
An artist’s conception shows Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. (Blue Origin Illustration)

The Government Accountability Office is agreeing with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture that the Air Force needs to amend its rules for deciding who’ll get future contracts for national security space launches.

Today’s GAO decision comes in response to Blue Origin’s pre-award protest over the Air Force’s National Security Space Launch Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement, which was filed in August when Blue Origin and three other companies submitted their bids for future procurements.

The launches covered by the process would be executed between 2022 and 2026, and are sure to bring billions of dollars to the companies that are selected.

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Watchdogs worry over NASA super-rocket

Space Launch System
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s Space Launch System in flight. (NASA Illustration)

The federal government’s watchdog agency says getting NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket off the ground is likely to take longer and cost more than the space agency says it will.

Any issues that crop up in the months ahead could push the first uncrewed SLS launch, known as Artemis 1, from its planned mid-2020 timetable to mid-2021, the Government Accountability Office said in a study issued today.

What’s more, the GAO says NASA has been shifting costs forward to make it look as if expenses for the first launch have grown by $1 billion, when the actual adjusted cost growth is $1.8 billion.

Schedule and cost issues for SLS are particularly problematic because the rocket has been selected to carry NASA astronauts to the moon by 2024.

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GAO watchdogs howl about NASA’s performance

Image: Orion
An artist’s conception shows NASA’s Orion capsule in flight. (Credit: NASA)

The Government Accountability Office issued a downbeat report on NASA’s major space projects today, saying that cost and schedule performance has deteriorated over the past year.

The full extent of the cost issues is unknown, primarily due to uncertainties surrounding the effort to build NASA’s Orion deep-space capsule, the GAO said in its 127-page “Quick Look” assessment.

NASA’s multibillion-dollar commercial space taxi program, which has SpaceX and Boeing as lead contractors, could face delays as well. The GAO said full certification for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station could slip to the end of 2019 for SpaceX, and to early 2020 for Boeing.

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GAO reportedly faults SpaceX rocket engine

SpaceX launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Iridium telecommunication satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Jan. 14. (SpaceX Photo)

Investigators from the Government Accountability Office are said to be raising concerns about persistent cracking in the turbine blades in SpaceX’s rocket engines, and adding to doubts about the schedule for flying NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

The concerns are contained in a draft report being prepared by the GAO, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Journal said its information came from government and industry officials familiar with the GAO’s study of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its Merlin engines.

In response to today’s Journal article, SpaceX said it was working to resolve the turbine blade issue in cooperation with NASA.

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