Space Station:

Improving NASA's Planning for External Maintenance

NSIAD-92-271: Published: Jul 20, 1992. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) efforts to determine the Space Station Freedom's extravehicular activity (EVA) maintenance requirements and its planning to meet those requirements.

GAO found that: (1) model-based estimates for failure and replacement rates are inaccurate and do not account for extrinsic factors, such as human error; (2) NASA does not perform detailed reviews of contractor data to determine whether underlying assumptions are reasonable; (3) EVA resources will be insufficient to address all external maintenance needs during the space station's assembly phase, resulting in a maintenance backlog; (4) EVA maintenance planners have incorrectly assumed that EVA maintenance time will be available during assembly missions; (5) EVA maintenance during assembly and utilization flights will reduce research time, and separate maintenance flights will increase total program costs and delay the space station's assembly and use; (6) permanent staffing of the space station should increase available EVA maintenance time and visiting shuttle crews could perform further EVA maintenance duties; and (7) remote controlled robots will perform some external maintenance tasks.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct that contractor data used to develop EVA maintenance demand estimates be reviewed in sufficient scope and depth to provide better assurance of their accuracy.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NASA has completely redesigned its management approach to the development of the space station. It no longer is directly managing the program. It has consolidated its 3 previously separate contracts into a single contract and has reduced the number of its own personnel directly working on the space station by 1,000. EVA maintenance requirements, as well as numerous other activities, are now the prime contractor's responsibility.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, NASA, should direct that, before the completion of the space station's critical design review, appropriate steps be taken to eliminate inconsistent assumptions in maintenance, assembly, and utilization plans concerning the availability of EVA maintenance time during the station's assembly phase.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: NASA has completely redesigned its management approach to the development of the space station. It no longer is directly managing the program. It has consolidated its 3 previously separate contracts into a single contract and has reduced the number of its own personnel directly working on the space station by 1,000. EVA maintenance requirements, as well as numerous other activities, are now the prime contractor's responsibility.

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