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Open Recommendations

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

GAO-21-330
May 26, 2021
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4 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator, in coordination with the Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, should ensure the Volatiles Investigating Polar Exploration Rover (VIPER) project office includes relevant development costs from the Resource Prospector project and the cost of the Commercial Lunar Payload Services task order for the delivery of VIPER to the lunar surface into its cost baseline. (Recommendation 1)
Open
NASA did not agree with this recommendation stating it did not include development costs for the Resource Prospector project in the baseline because VIPER's mission was significantly different, its design is much more capable, and a different mission directorate funded the project. In addition, NASA stated that it chose not to include the Commercial Lunar Payload Services task order costs in the VIPER project's cost baseline because the Commercial Lunar Payload Services initiative differs from other launch services procured for NASA missions. We continue to believe that the relevant costs incurred for the VIPER project's development under the Resource Prospector project are important because they provide visibility into the total cost of developing the rover and some of its instruments. Further, the cost of Commercial Lunar Payload Services task order to deliver VIPER to the Moon is a key cost of the project's life cycle, even if the project is not responsible for managing the task order.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Office of the Chief Engineer develop guidance to mitigate risks associated with delaying the establishment of high-level requirements early in the acquisition process when using service-type contracts and incorporate it in its reference guide or a similar document. (Recommendation 2)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator, in coordination with the Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, should ensure the Gateway program, in advance of the Power and Propulsion Element (PPE) project's confirmation review, assesses the solar electric propulsion thrusters' technical risks and determine whether off-ramps—such as reduced requirements for PPE—are needed or whether the project's schedule should be reassessed. (Recommendation 3)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator, in coordination with the Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, should ensure the Advanced Exploration Systems Division documents the process used to determine the program and technical management practices and tools that it will apply to the Artemis III and later missions, in the absence of establishing a formal Artemis program. (Recommendation 4)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation. When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Commercial Space Transportation: FAA Should Examine a Range of Options to Support U.S. Launch Infrastructure

GAO-21-154
Dec 22, 2020
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1 Open Recommendations
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Office of Commercial Space Transportation We recommend that the Associate Administrator for AST provide Congress the results of an examination of a range of options—including funding and financing tools, as well as alternatives to making funding available—to support space transportation infrastructure. This examination should include a discussion of trade-offs and whether and how, if at all, each approach would contribute to national policy goals. (Recommendation 1)
Open
When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

NASA Human Space Exploration: Significant Investments in Future Capabilities Require Strengthened Management Oversight

GAO-21-105
Dec 15, 2020
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2 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
We recommend that the NASA Administrator ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate establish cost and schedule baselines for SLS Block 1B, SLS Block 2, Mobile Launcher 2, and Orion Docking System at their preliminary design reviews or as soon as practicable in advance of critical design reviews. (Recommendation 1)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation. In April 2021, NASA stated that it is on track to establish a baseline for SLS Block 1B by September 30, 2021. NASA has decided to rebaseline the Orion program to include the Docking system. NASA also plans to complete this rebaseline by September 30, 2021. NASA plans to establish a separate baseline for Mobile Launcher 2 by Spring 2022 . To fully implement this recommendation, NASA will need to provide documentation that it established cost and schedule baselines for all four systems-including SLS Block 2-before their respective critical design reviews.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration We recommend that the NASA Administrator ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate directs the Exploration Systems Development organization to include cost, schedule, and technical performance updates for SLS Block 1B, SLS Block 2, Mobile Launcher 2, and the Orion Docking System in its quarterly program status reviews in order to maintain oversight of these development projects. (Recommendation 2)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation, but as of summer 2021, has not taken steps necessary to fully implement. While the amount and quality of information presented in the quarterly status reports has improved, key pieces of information related to cost, schedule, and technical performance were missing for each upgrade effort.

NASA Lunar Programs: Opportunities Exist to Strengthen Analyses and Plans for Moon Landing

GAO-20-68
Dec 19, 2019
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6 Open Recommendations
1 Priority
Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations directs the Advanced Exploration Systems division to define and determine a schedule for synchronization reviews, including the role of the proposed Lunar Exploration Control Board, to help ensure that requirements between mission and program levels are reconciled. (Recommendation 1)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation and stated that the Advanced Exploration Systems division will review program life-cycle review plans to ensure enterprise and program requirements are reconciled across the mission. NASA has developed a schedule for Exploration Mission Analysis Cycles, which officials said would assure mission requirements and program capabilities are aligned for Artemis missions. NASA officials stated that they also plan to conduct requirements analysis cycles to align requirements across different systems. As of August 2021, NASA had not yet provided additional information regarding the schedule and content of these requirements analysis cycles. These efforts could meet the intent of our recommendation.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations directs the Gateway program to conduct a joint cost and schedule confidence level at the program level for the Artemis III mission. (Recommendation 2)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation and stated it would conduct a joint cost and schedule confidence level analysis or equivalent. The Gateway program is planning to conduct a series of project- and program-level reviews and assessments aligned with key decision point reviews. This includes conducting a joint cost and schedule confidence level analysis or equivalent of the Gateway initial configuration to support a program key decision point planned for April 2022.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations directs the Gateway program to update its overall schedule for 2024 to add a KDP II to occur before system integration. (Recommendation 3)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation, but has not yet taken action on it. NASA stated that it would provide a schedule for future reviews, including whether there will be a Key Decision Point (KDP) II, at the KDP-I review currently scheduled for April 2022.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Priority Rec.
This is a priority recommendation.
The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations creates a life-cycle cost estimate for the Artemis III mission. (Recommendation 4)
Open
NASA agreed with the recommendation and stated that the agency will provide a preliminary cost estimate for the Artemis III mission by the end of calendar year 2020. However, NASA has not yet created this cost estimate. NASA officials told us that a 5-year funding plan provided to Congress in September 2020 serves as the agency's cost estimate through the Artemis III mission in 2024. The officials stated that the agency would establish cost and schedule commitments for projects but not the overall mission. However, to fully implement this recommendation, NASA needs to develop a life-cycle cost estimate for the lunar landing mission as a whole-Artemis III. This is because the 5-year funding plan includes costs outside of this mission, such as costs for the Artemis I and II missions. Similarly, project baseline commitments do not necessarily include the scope of work required for the Artemis III mission. For example, the SLS baseline commitment only includes a cost estimate for the first mission. As a result, there is still no comprehensive Artemis III life-cycle cost estimate.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the NASA Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations directs the Advanced Exploration Systems division to commit to a completion date and finalize a cohesive document outlining the rationale for selecting its current lunar architecture and lunar programs. (Recommendation 5)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation and stated that it is developing a document that will connect the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate strategic plan and policy with division and program-level activities and implementation plans. In addition, NASA officials said that the directorate's Associate Administrator requested that directorate's system engineering and integration office lead an update to the Artemis Plan that captures the current strategy and rationale. NASA has not yet completed these documents.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration The NASA Administrator should ensure that the Office of the Chief Engineer determines under what conditions it is appropriate to complete an analysis of alternatives, particularly when there are multiple pathways—including architectures or programs—that NASA could pursue in the future, and document the justification for not completing an analysis. (Recommendation 6)
Open
NASA agreed with this recommendation, but has not yet taken any action on it. NASA officials said that they planned to update the existing NASA Systems Engineering handbook with the additional language to help highlight analyses of alternatives as examples of performing the decision analysis process. However, with this approach, NASA does not plan to explain the conditions in which conducting an AOA would be appropriate. And as a result, NASA could continue to miss opportunities to move forward with more viable architectures or programs to meet mission needs in the future.
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