Space Transportation:

Critical Areas NASA Needs to Address in Managing Its Reusable Launch Vehicle Program

GAO-01-826T: Published: Jun 20, 2001. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 2001.

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This testimony discusses the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) X-33 and X-34 reusable launch vehicle programs. The two programs experienced difficulties achieving their goals primarily because NASA did not develop realistic cost estimates, timely acquisition and risk management plans, and adequate and realistic performance goals. In particular, neither program fully (1) assessed the costs associated with developing new, unproven technologies, (2) provided for the financial reserves needed to deal with technical risks and accommodate normal development delays, (3) developed plans to quantify and mitigate the risks to NASA, or (4) established performance targets showing a clear path leading to an operational reusable launch vehicle. As a result, both programs were terminated. Currently, NASA is in the process of taking steps in the Second Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle Program to help avoid problems like those encountered in the X-33 and X-34 programs.

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