The US space and space agency (NASA) has paid Boeing nearly $ 300 million more than originally planned for the contractor to continue the commercial crew program despite the high price.
The report, published on November 14 by NASA's inspector general, shows a complicated picture of the space agency's relationship with Boeing, one of its leading contractors.
The report says that NASA paid Boeing hundreds of millions of dollars in "unnecessary" payments for a "fixed hard price" contract .
According to the Washington Post, NASA has agreed to pay the company an additional $ 287.2 million as part of Boeing's multi-billion-dollar contract to develop spacecraft capable of sending astronauts to the National Space Station. To help the company accelerate the launch.
But the payment could be easily avoided "through simple changes to the flight manifest , " the NASA inspector general wrote in the report.
When making payments, NASA officials also did not consider Boeing buying some seats on the Russian spacecraft they intended to sell to NASA, which would help fill the void between flights.
Boeing employees gather at the Crew Space Transportation (CST) -100 Starliner.(Photo: Washington Post).
Five days after NASA gave Boeing an additional $ 287 million, Boeing proposed selling NASA a maximum of five seats on Russia's Soyuz ship for $ 373.5 million, according to the inspector general's report.
Nor does NASA ask SpaceX, another company under NASA's contract to bring their astronauts to the space station, whether they can speed up their spacecraft development and help fill the void. is not.
Both Boeing and SpaceX have encountered serious technical problems in NASA's "commercial crew program" , which delayed the first flights to send humans to space for two years.
The Inspector General said Boeing had found a way to take advantage of that delay. Basically, NASA "had to pay a higher price for Boeing to address the schedule slip caused by Boeing's 13-month delay" when the critical design progress was completed.
But the inspector general said that "additional compensation is not necessary" when the risk of space between flights is "very small".
The report also said NASA officials felt they needed to respond to Boeing's claims because "they believe that due to financial calculations, Boeing cannot continue to be a commercial crew supplier unless bidders get higher prices ".
In a letter to the Inspector General, the agency said it "strongly disagrees with the inspector's description that NASA 'pays too much' for Boeing or the final agreed price is' unnecessary ',' no. matched ',' unreasonable 'or' higher 'than lower assumed amount. "
Teams from NASA and Boeing rehearsed to land Boeing's spacecraft CST-100 Starliner at the White Sands Missile Range test site, on September 9.(Photo: NASA).
The agency said: "There is no evidence to support the conclusion that Boeing will agree to a lower price . " They said the price has been reviewed and approved by many NASA officials and shown in the 29-page report.
A NASA spokesman declined to publish the letter, saying it was private property. He also noted that the Inspector General "does not recommend recovery of any questionable expenses."
In a statement, Boeing justified the additional payments, saying it "suffered significantly higher financial risks and helped NASA make important decisions to optimize operations (space station)." ) Future.
Doing so according to the structure of the original contract will increase the cost and uncertainty of the schedule and will limit NASA's flexibility in mission planning. "
In 2014, NASA awarded $ 4.2 billion to Boeing, $ 2.6 billion to SpaceX as part of the effort to revive NASA's program to send humans to space and to launch missions back to land. The United States for the first time since the shuttle was retired in 2011.
With no way to send its astronauts into space, NASA had to pay Russia about $ 84 million a seat to hitch a ride to the space station.
Starliner image of Boeing.(Photo: Boeing).
But the inspector's report questioned the validity of Boeing's contract when it discovered that the first flights on Boeing's Starliner would cost $ 90 million a seat, a little more than that. Russian prices.
SpaceX's Dragon Boat trips will cost about $ 55 million per seat, according to the inspector general.
The report brought more bad news to Boeing, which had been engulfed in scandals since the crash of two of the 737 Max jets that killed 346 people.
The Inspector General's report came a day after another report highlighted Boeing's struggles with another major NASA project, the development of the Space Launch System rocket that NASA hopes to be used. to send astronauts to the Moon.
According to the report, the SLS rocket, the Orion crew bay will fly over it and the associated ground systems have cost the agency $ 34 billion so far and are expected to increase to $ 50 billion by 2024.
The report came just days after Boeing conducted a test of Starliner's detachment system to bring the crew to safety in an emergency.
Boeing and NASA considered the experiment a success despite the fact that one of the three main parachutes was not able to inflate.
SpaceX also had problems with its spacecraft. In April, the vehicle was destroyed during a separate engine test.
SpaceX also has serious problems with parachutes. The same month that the Dragon's capsule exploded on the test platform, the company conducted a drop test in which three parachutes failed to open, "resulting in a failed test result , " according to the inspector general.
In a speech at NASA's Ames Research Center in the afternoon of November 14, Vice President Pence was optimistic. He said the agency would send "American astronauts on American rockets launched from the US" in the spring.