The four contracts for the Space Launch System rocket’s booster and engine were initially projected to cost $7 billion over a span of 14 years, but are now projected to cost at least $13.1 billion over nearly 25 years. (from the NASA Inspector General Paul Martin published by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) on May 25).
NOTE: In recent SpaceX legal documents it has been confirmed that total spending for the Super Heavy Starship development, launch sites, mechazilla launch tower and factories is $3 billion. SpaceX will spend another $2 billion on Starship and launch facilities in 2023.
From fiscal years 2012 through 2025, NASA’s overall Artemis investment is projected to reach $93 billion, of which the SLS Program costs represent $23.8 billion spent through 2022. For SLS launches, NASA entered into two booster contracts with Northrop Grumman and two RS-25 engine contracts with Aerojet Rocketdyne. The four contracts, performance periods, and values are: Boosters—April 2006 to December 2023, $4.4 billion; Booster Production and Operations Contract (BPOC)—June 2020 to December 2031, $3.2 billion; Adaptation (RS-25 engines)— June 2006 to September 2020, $2.1 billion; and RS-25 Restart and Production—November 2015 to September 2029, $3.6 billion.
Given the enormous cost of the Artemis campaign, NASA is exploring ways to make the SLS—which requires two boosters and four RS-25 engines per launch—more affordable by moving towards a fixed-price contract.
Auditors question $19.8 million in award fees for the 11 unfinished engines which were subsequently moved to the RS-25 Restart and Production contract and may now be eligible to receive additional award fees. Faced with continuing cost and schedule increases, NASA is undertaking efforts to make the SLS more affordable. Under the RS-25 Restart and Production contract, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne are projecting manufacturing cost savings of 30 percent per engine starting with production of the seventh of 24 new engines. However, those savings do not capture overhead and other costs, which auditors currently estimate at $2.3 billion. Moreover, NASA currently cannot track per-engine costs to assess whether they are meeting these projected saving targets.
SLS and Artemis are out of control cost-plus projects. No matter how much money is wasted or how many years of delay there are the companies get to re-bill all expenses and get more profit for more waste.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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