NASA: Ares I and Orion Project Risks and Key Indicators to Measure Progress

GAO-08-186T Published: Apr 03, 2008. Publicly Released: Apr 03, 2008.
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The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is in the midst of two new development efforts as part of the Constellation Program--the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle and the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle. These projects are critical to the success of the overall program, which will return humans to spaceflight after Space Shuttle retirement in 2010. To reduce the gap in human spaceflight, NASA plans to launch Ares I and Orion in 2015--5 years after the Shuttle's retirement. GAO has issued a number of reports and testimonies that touch on various aspects of NASA's Constellation Program, particularly the development efforts underway for the Orion and Ares I projects. These reports and testimonies have questioned the affordability and overall acquisition strategy for each project. NASA has revised the Orion acquisition strategy and delayed the Ares I preliminary design review based on GAO's recommendations in these reports. In addition, GAO continues to monitor these projects on an ongoing basis at the request of members of Congress. Based on this work, GAO was asked to testify on the types of challenges that NASA faces in developing the Ares I and Orion vehicles and identify the key indicators that decision makers could use to assess risks associated with common trouble spots in development. The information in this testimony is based on work completed in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

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