Space Station:

Russian Commitment and Cost Control Problems

NSIAD-99-175: Published: Aug 17, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 27, 1999.

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Louis J. Rodrigues
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the status of Russian involvement in the International Space Station (ISS) program, focusing on: (1) the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) progress in developing contingency plans to mitigate the possibility of Russian nonperformance and the loss or delay of other critical components; (2) NASA's efforts to ensure that Russian quality assurance processes meet the station's safety requirements; and (3) the effectiveness of cost control efforts regarding the prime contract and nonprime activities.

GAO noted that: (1) Russia's funding problems have delayed delivery of the Service Module--the first major Russian-funded component--and raised questions about its ability to support the station during and after assembly; (2) NASA is implementing a multi-faceted contingency plan to mitigate the risk of further delay of the Service Module and the possibility that the Russians will not provide Progress vehicles for reboosting the station; (3) the first step of this 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; (4) in the second step, NASA is developing its own permanent reboosting capability; (5) NASA's plan also includes payments to the Russian Space Agency to complete near-term work on the Service Module, and Progress and Soyuz space vehicles; (6) although NASA has a contingency plan to mitigate Russian nonperformance, it does not have an approved overall contingency plan to address issues such as late delivery or loss of critical hardware; (7) the agency acknowledges that the lack of such a plan is a program risk item; (8) according to program officials, the higher priority risk items will ultimately be costed, and the final contingency plan should be approved later this year; (9) NASA is satisfied that Russian quality assurance standards are acceptable; (10) however, the Service Module's inability to meet debris protection requirements is a potential safety issue; (11) in addition, NASA and the Russian Space Agency will have to work together to address other safety issues such as improving fire protection and reducing noise levels; (12) the prime contract has had significant cost overruns and schedule delays; (13) the prime contractor's estimate of overrun at completion has been increased several times and stands at $986 million; (14) at the same time, the costs of the nonprime portion of the program--activities related to science facilities and ground and vehicle operations--are also increasing, due largely to added scope and schedule slippage; (15) in 1994, the nonprime component of the program's development budget was $8.5 billion; today, it is over $12.4 billion; (16) the agency has begun to subject the nonprime area to increased scrutiny; (17) also, recognizing the inadequacy of the risk database, the Program Risk Assessment Board was directed to scrutinize all existing risks for cost impacts; and (18) these actions could potentially improve the agency's ability to manage future cost growth.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: NASA developed an overall ISS contingency plan, but it is still awaiting full approval from the partners. Since the recommendation was tied to the Service Module launch and that component has been launched and is now assembled on-orbit, NASA can no longer comply with the recommendation as written.

    Recommendation: To minimize the potential of further schedule disruptions and related cost increases, the Administrator, NASA, should direct the station program manager to finalize the overall ISS contingency plan before the Service Module is launched.

    Agency Affected: National Aeronautics and Space Administration


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