Space Station:

NASA's Search for Design, Cost, and Schedule Stability Continues

NSIAD-91-125: Published: Mar 1, 1991. Publicly Released: Mar 27, 1991.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Space Station Program, focusing on the: (1) annual design, estimated cost, and schedule changes since 1985; (2) annual budget requests and resulting funding for fiscal year (FY) 1985 through FY 1991; and (3) NASA 1989 program review's impact on the space station's cost and capabilities.

GAO found that: (1) NASA often changed the space station's design and cost estimate and postponed its assembly schedule, primarily because of conflicts between engineering technology and station capabilities, rising cost estimates, and reductions in planned budget increases; (2) recent congressional directives and an advisory committee's recommendations could result in further changes to the station's design, cost, and schedule; (3) NASA reported the space station's costs in its Capital Development Plan as required, but did not properly include the entire assembly period or the first-year cost of steady operations; (4) by FY 1991, the space station's capabilities had declined from the conceptual design proposed in 1984, but the costs increased from $8 billion to $12.3 billion in 1984 dollars; (5) in the FY 1991 estimate, related space station costs increased to $38.3 billion in then-year dollars; (6) annual space station research and development funding increased from $150 million in FY 1985 to nearly $2 billion in FY 1991, less than NASA requested; (7) to stabilize the space station's design and schedule at achievable funding levels, NASA conducted a program review that resulted in several design and schedule changes; and (8) although NASA predicted that those changes would substantially reduce development costs, it did not consider the cost of contractor proposals under negotiation, so its estimated savings may not be as large as it anticipated.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional directives on the FY 1992 authorizations and appropriations for NASA did not include this requirement.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring the Administrator, NASA, to expand the Capital Development Plan to disclose the space station's total direct and related cost estimates for assembly and the operating cost estimate for at least the first full year of steady operations.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congressional directives on the FY 1992 authorizations and appropriations for NASA did not include this requirement.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider requiring the Administrator, NASA, to expand the Capital Development Plan to provide all cost information in both then-year and constant dollars.

 

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