Cassini Mission:

Estimated Launch Costs for NASA's Mission to Saturn

NSIAD-95-141BR: Published: May 8, 1995. Publicly Released: May 25, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Titan IV-Centaur launch of its Cassini spacecraft, focusing on the: (1) current estimated cost for the launch; and (2) extent to which cost savings opportunities exist.

GAO found that: (1) NASA's most recent estimate for the Titan IV-Centaur launch of its Cassini spacecraft is about $452 million, approxmately $23 million less than its $475-million estimate in April 1994; (2) the decrease occrred principally because NASA reduced its earlier estimate of mission integration costs; (3) the $452-million estimate includes about $253 million paid to the Air Force for a Titan IV-Centaur launch vehicle and launch services; (4) the remaining Cassini launch costs are NASA funding to pay for potential future cost increases, mission integration, prior-year studies, support by two NASA field centers, and miscellaneous costs; (5) the Air Force estimates that its cost for launch vehicle and services is about $98 million more than the $253 million NASA will pay; (6) Air Force officials believe there are benefits to providing a launch vehicle for Casini, for example, the Air Force will avoid an estimated $11.5 million to $13.8 million in storage charges and will reduce mission reliability risk due to the aging of components; (7) reductions in the cost of the Cassini launch may be possible because NASA recently completed its negotiation of the mission integration contract for $15 million less than estimated, however, cost savings in other areas of the Cassini launch are unlikely, and some of NASA's costs could increase; (8) NASA missed a potential cost-saving opportunity because its agreement with the Air Force does not require the Air Force to refund NASA payments in excess of cost, and the Air Force is not required to refund to NASA fees that the Air Force does not pay to the Titan IV contractor, including $2 million in award fees and a $9-million incentive fee; and (9) NASA's mission integration contract does not fully compy with the agency's revised policy for cost-plus-award-fee contracts, which was implemented to encourage contractors to deliver quality products at reasonable costs.

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