Space Station:

Status of Russian Involvement and Cost Control Efforts

T-NSIAD-99-117: Published: Apr 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) International Space Station and the status of Russian involvement in the program, focusing on NASA's efforts to: (1) develop a contingency plan to mitigate the possibility of unforeseen problems, including future Russian nonperformance; (2) ensure that Russian quality assurance and manufacturing processes are acceptable; and (3) control prime contract and nonprime activity costs.

GAO noted that: (1) uncertainty regarding future Russian involvement will require NASA to continuously plan and implement contingency initiatives; (2) as an International Space Station partner, Russia agreed to provide certain equipment; (3) however, Russia's funding problems have delayed delivery of the Service Module (SM) and raised concerns about Russia's ability to support the station during assembly and once it is completed; (4) NASA is implementing a multifaceted contingency plan to mitigate the risk of further delay of the SM and the possibility that Progress vehicles for reboosting the station cannot be provided by the Russians; (5) the plan includes the development of the U.S.-built interim control module and modifications to the Russian-built and U.S.-financed functional cargo block; (6) NASA is developing its own permanent reboosting capability; (7) NASA's plan includes payments to the Russian Space Agency to complete near-term work on the SM and the Progress and Soyuz space vehicles; (8) while the ultimate cost of NASA's plan is uncertain, the agency estimates that the cost to protect against Russian nonperformance will be about $1.2 billion; (9) although NASA has a contingency plan to mitigate Russian nonperformance, it does not have an approved overall contingency plan to address certain issues; (10) NASA acknowledges that the lack of an overall contingency plan is a program risk item; (11) NASA is satisfied that Russian quality assurance and manufacturing standards are acceptable; (12) however, the SM's inability to meet station requirements for debris protection is a potential safety issue; (13) the SM will require improvements after it is launched to meet the station's debris protection requirement; (14) based on the module's launch date, it will be about 3 1/2 years after launch before improvements can be completed; (15) pressures on the program's budget continue to mount; (16) NASA's cost estimates assume assembly completion in 2004; (17) the agency acknowledges the difficulty in maintaining that schedule; (18) if the schedule is not met, total program costs for the U.S. segment of the station will increase further; (19) the prime contractor's estimate of overrun at completion has been increased several times and stands at $986 million; (20) in 1994, the nonprime component of the program's development budget was $8.5 billion; today, it is over $12.4 billion; and (21) NASA has begun to subject the nonprime area to increased scrutiny, and modifications are being made to a centralized database of potential risk areas to include the identification of the cost of such risks.

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