National Aero-Space Plane:

Key Issues Facing the Program

T-NSIAD-92-26: Published: Mar 31, 1992. Publicly Released: Mar 31, 1992.

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GAO discussed the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) Program, focusing on the program's flight testing plans, costs, schedule changes, and progress in developing key technologies. GAO noted that NASP: (1) is a joint Department of Defense/National Aeronautics and Space Administration technology development and demonstration program to build and test the X-30 manned experimental flight vehicle; (2) is currently in the second of three phases, and is currently involved in such concept validation activities as developing critical technologies, production processes, structural articles and components, and a demonstration engine; (3) may not conduct single-stage-to-orbit flight testing of the X-30, which was originally a primary program goal, due to efforts to reduce costs and minimize technical risks; (4) has no official estimate of X-30 development, building, and testing costs, but preliminary information indicates that program costs may be more than 5 times the 1986 estimate of $3.1 billion; (5) may be using overly optimistic assumptions and may be excluding certain costs in its revised cost estimate due in May 1992; (6) attributes schedule delays to a combination of funding constraints and slow technical progress; (7) efforts to meet its revised schedule will be complicated by competing space and defense programs; and (8) has made progress toward meeting several broad technical development goals, but plans to make a decision about entering Phase III before testing some of the critical technologies.

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