Space Station:

Inadequate Planning and Design Led to Propulsion Module Project Failure

GAO-01-633: Published: Jun 20, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 29, 2001.

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This report discusses the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) contract with Boeing Reusable Space Systems to build the now-canceled follow-on propulsion module for the International Space Station. GAO found that the initial propulsion module project did not meet performance, cost, and schedule goals largely because NASA proceeded with Boeing's proposal without following fundamental processes involving project planning and execution. Once it was determined that Boeing's proposal was inadequate, NASA began to assess alternatives to the Boeing-proposed propulsion module. The assessment team defined mission success criteria, identified key design assumptions, and performed comparative analysis on competing designs. On the basis of its analyses, the team recommended a follow-on design. NASA acknowledged that its initial approach to developing a propulsion module was inadequate and contributed to the project's unsuccessful conclusion. NASA officials sought to learn lessons from the project in order to avoid similar problems in managing future programs.

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