Space Station:

Actions Under Way to Manage Cost, but Significant Challenges Remain

GAO-02-735: Published: Jul 17, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 18, 2002.

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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) revealed that the cost to complete assembly of the international space station has risen from $25 billion to $30 billion. Much of that cost growth is due to inadequate definition of requirements, changes in program content, schedule delays, and poor program oversight. Weaknesses in the program's cost-estimating process call into question the credibility of NASA's plans to carry out its budget through fiscal year 2006. The cost growth has also severely affected the space station's ability to conduct scientific research. NASA has instituted several management and cost-estimating reforms, including a life-cycle cost estimate, a program management plan, and a reprioritized science program. However, significant challenges remain. Preparation of the life-cycle cost estimate may be difficult because NASA's financial management system is unable to adequately track space station costs. Many tasks and studies being undertaken will not be completed until September 2002, leaving NASA with little time to incorporate its results into its budget for fiscal year 2004. Finally, NASA has yet to reach an agreement with its international partners on an acceptable on-orbit configuration, the sharing of research facilities, and cost sharing.

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