Reports & Testimonies

GAO’s reports and testimonies give Congress, federal agencies, and the public timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can improve government operations and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

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National Security Space: Overview of Contracts for Commercial Satellite Imagery

GAO-23-106042
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Commercial satellite imagery and data can play a key role in national security. For example, the war in Ukraine has drawn attention to how governments are using commercial satellites to track troop movement and the impact of attacks. The commercial space industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years, and therefore may be able to address more of the federal government's imagery needs...

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Large Constellations of Satellites: Mitigating Environmental and Other Effects

GAO-22-105166
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For decades, satellites have been used for GPS, communications, and remote sensing. The number of satellites has recently increased, as thousands more have been launched to provide internet access. But this increase may be disruptive. For example, it could lead to more space debris, which can damage existing satellites used for commerce or national security. We reviewed technologies and other tools to lessen potential effects...

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Tracking the Funds: Specific Fiscal Year 2022 Provisions for National Aeronautics and Space Administration

GAO-22-105921
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As part of FY22 appropriations, Members of Congress could request to designate a certain amount of federal funding for specific projects in their communities. While agencies often have discretion over how they award funds, Congress has directed them to distribute these funds to designated recipients. We're tracking the funds to help ensure transparency. NASA's FY22 appropriations included $22.7 million for 21 of these projects. This...

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NASA Lunar Programs: Improved Mission Guidance Needed as Artemis Complexity Grows

GAO-22-105323
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NASA is embarking on a series of missions—collectively known as Artemis—that will return astronauts to the moon and ultimately bring humans to Mars over the next decade-plus. The guidance NASA uses to create and manage Artemis mission schedules was intended for individual programs, not missions. Missions integrate several programs together and require coordination across different NASA divisions and with contractors. Schedule guidance specifically for missions...

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Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

GAO-22-105726
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Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations. This report outlines our 9 priority open recommendations for NASA as of June 2022. For example, in December 2019, we recommended that NASA create a life-cycle cost...

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NASA: Assessments of Major Projects

GAO-22-105212
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NASA plans to invest over $80 billion in its major projects to continue exploring Earth, the moon, and the solar system. This is our 14th annual assessment of NASA's major projects. In 2021, NASA completed six projects, including launching the James Webb space telescope. But, in the last year, NASA's major projects collectively exceeded their cost estimates by almost $3 billion. They also surpassed their...

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International Space Station: Opportunities Exist to Improve Communication with National Laboratory Users

GAO-22-105147
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The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space manages the International Space Station National Laboratory for NASA. Some companies and universities not affiliated with NASA may want access to the lab for research that can't be done on Earth. The Center allocates resources, such as time astronauts may spend on these research projects. Recently, the Center formed an advisory committee of these users to...

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U.S. Space Command: Air Force Should Develop Guidance for Strengthening Future Basing Decisions

GAO-22-106055
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We reviewed the Air Force's process for identifying the preferred location for U.S. Space Command headquarters. We assessed the process against 21 "Analysis of Alternatives" best practices, which can help increase transparency and avoid the presence or appearance of bias. The practices are grouped into four characteristics of a high-quality analysis: comprehensive, well-documented, unbiased, and credible. We found that the Air Force's process did not...

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Space Acquisitions: Changing Environment Presents Continuing Challenges and Opportunities for DOD

GAO-22-105900
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For decades, space remained largely the purview of a handful of countries and mostly free from threats. But now many countries have satellites, private companies offer satellite-based services, and some countries have demonstrated they could target and destroy satellites. It is in this new context that DOD aims to modernize its space systems. We testified that DOD's key challenges and opportunities include: completing the standup...

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NASA Lunar Programs: Moon Landing Plans Are Advancing but Challenges Remain

GAO-22-105533
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NASA plans to conduct a lunar landing mission, known as the Artemis III mission, no earlier than in 2025. This is a delay of at least a year from earlier plans. While NASA has made progress on preparing for Artemis III (including planning its first test flight), we testified about challenges it faces in meeting its goal. For example, NASA is behind schedule on developing...

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NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Could Improve Future Outcomes

GAO-22-105709
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Problems like persistent cost increases and delays have earned NASA's acquisition management a spot on our High Risk List. NASA's current portfolio includes projects that leverage work from private companies. We testified about a few things NASA could do to improve its management, using some examples from our past work. For example, NASA could: Minimize cost increases and delays on its largest projects, which can...

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Space Command and Control: Opportunities Exist to Enhance Annual Reporting

GAO-22-104685
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DOD relies on space- and ground-based systems for command and control of satellites and other space assets. Commanders rely on these systems to reduce risks, e.g., from adversaries or space debris. However, for decades, efforts to improve space command and control have gone over budget, been late, and left key capabilities undelivered. In 2019, Congress required the Air Force to submit annual reports on these...

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NASA: Lessons from Ongoing Major Projects Can Inform Management of Future Space Telescopes

GAO-22-105555
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A recent National Academies report proposed new space telescopes for NASA, potentially adding to NASA's 3 current major space telescope projects. One current project (the James Webb Space Telescope) plans to launch in December after years of delays and cost increases. We testified that NASA's success with future space telescope projects will depend on its ability to: Better manage its large projects, which have ripple...

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Priority Open Recommendations: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

GAO-21-574PR
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Each year, we make more than 1,000 recommendations to help improve the federal government. We alert department heads to where they can save the most money, address issues on our High Risk List, or significantly improve government operations. This report outlines our 11 priority open recommendations for NASA as of June 2021. For example, NASA should develop cost and schedule baselines for 4 planned system...

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Commercial Space Transportation: FAA Continues to Update Regulations and Faces Challenges to Overseeing an Evolving Industry

GAO-21-105268
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The U.S. commercial space transportation industry continues to evolve. More launches are putting more satellites and other payloads into space, and companies are edging closer to offering space tourism. FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) is responsible for regulating and promoting this industry. This testimony gives an update on AST's progress in adapting to industry change. For example, AST has streamlined rules for applicants...

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NASA Lunar Programs: Significant Work Remains, Underscoring Challenges to Achieving Moon Landing in 2024

GAO-21-330
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Since we last reported on NASA's plans to return humans to the moon by 2024, NASA has made some progress. But a fast-tracked schedule to meet this ambitious date—along with some technical risks—mean that it's less likely a lunar landing will happen in 2024. For example, most of the lunar projects are still early in development and some are relying on immature technology. In addition...

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Space Acquisitions: DOD Faces Challenges and Opportunities with Acquiring Space Systems in a Changing Environment

GAO-21-520T
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DOD is acquiring new space systems as its older ones near completion. This testimony discusses DOD's ongoing space acquisition challenges and opportunities. Our prior work found that DOD space programs often exceed their budgets and are late. For several decades, we've identified best practices to improve acquisition outcomes, including having strong program oversight and empowering managers. We also reported on how the DOD space program's...

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NASA: Assessments of Major Projects

GAO-21-306
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NASA plans to invest over $69 billion dollars in its major projects to continue exploring the moon, Sun, Earth, and solar system. This is our 13th annual assessment of NASA's major projects. It includes snapshot profiles of 33 major projects. In the last year, the major projects collectively surpassed their cost estimates by over $1 billion. They also surpassed their schedules by 3 years. Although...

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James Webb Space Telescope: Project Nearing Completion, but Work to Resolve Challenges Continues

GAO-21-406
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The James Webb Space Telescope is the planned successor to the Hubble Telescope. The cost of the telescope has nearly doubled—to $9.7 billion—since 2009. Its launch, now planned for October 2021, has been delayed over 7 years. NASA is working to complete the telescope. Activities like strengthening the telescope’s sunshield took longer than expected, cutting into the project’s schedule reserves, i.e., the extra time NASA...

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Environmental Liabilities: NASA's Reported Financial Liabilities Have Grown, and Several Factors Contribute to Future Uncertainties

GAO-21-205
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In FY 2019, NASA reported being responsible for $1.7 billion in environmental liabilities for restoration projects to address contamination resulting from mission activities such as rocket testing—a 45% increase from FY 2014. NASA had 14 locations in need of cleanup in FY19. Most of the increase occurred at one location due to stringent soil cleanup requirements that NASA had not anticipated. NASA is still gathering...