A report from the US Government Accountability Office, (which you can read by following this link) raises concerns on the lack of transparency in the costs of the Space Launch System (SLS) space launch program of NASA. The recently released report finds that NASA did not adequately communicate the true costs associated with the development of the SLS rocket, despite the large, and ongoing, expenditures.
Furthermore, surprisingly, some NASA officials have admitted that the SLS program is too expensive to support the Artemis program’s lunar exploration goals.
The report expresses serious concerns on NASA’s decision not to evaluate production costs of the key elements of the SLS rocket, including the main stages of the project and the cost of additional engines for future launches.
NASA, for its part, has stated that it monitors costs through five-year estimates of production and operations. The Accountability report, however, criticizes this decision, defining such tools, inadequate to establish a solid foundation for the evaluation of costs and performance over time.
The report also highlights strong concerns regarding expected delays in Artemis program missions, which could excessively influence costs. However, some NASA officials insist that the delays will have no cost impacts, a detail that Accountability considers highly unlikely.
NASA recognized the need for improvement management of the SLS program and outlined a four-phase plan to reduce costs over time, which includes measures such as stabilizing the flight schedule, achieving efficiencies in the learning curve and promoting innovation. However, the report emphasizes that these are future goals and that no specific savings targets have currently been identified in the program.
At the same time, in NASA headquarters, doubts have arisen about the feasibility of such cost reductionsas the management costs of the SLS program may not be adequately assessed during the analyzes that will be carried out to apply the aforementioned cuts.