A new GAO report says that the first Artemis manned landing on the Moon is almost certainly not happen in 2025 as NASA presently wants, but will probably be delayed to 2027.
You can read the report here [pdf]. It clearly references the delays experienced by SpaceX due to regulatory roadblocks, but couches its language carefully so as to lay no blame on the government for those delays, placing the problem entirely on SpaceX instead.
In April 2023, after a 7-month delay, SpaceX achieved liftoff of the combined commercial Starship variant and Super Heavy booster during the Orbital Flight Test. But, according to SpaceX representatives, the flight test was not fully completed due to a fire inside the booster, which ultimately led to a loss of control of the vehicle. Following the launch, the Federal Aviation Administration—which issues commercial launch and reentry licenses—classified the commercial Starship launch as a mishap and required SpaceX to conduct a mishap investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed the August 2023 mishap report submitted by SpaceX and, as a result, cited 63 corrective actions for SpaceX to implement before a second test.
SpaceX had planned this demonstration as the first test flight of the booster stage, as well as the first test with the Starship riding on the booster and the whole system experiencing stage separation. However, SpaceX representatives said their Autonomous Flight Safety System initiated the vehicle self-destruct sequence and the vehicle began to break up about 4 minutes into the flight after the vehicle deviated from the expected trajectory, lost altitude, and began to tumble. HLS [Human Landing System] officials said that while the flight test was terminated early, it still provided data for several Starship technologies, including propellant loading, launch operations, avionics, and propulsion behavior.
Note how this language makes it seem like the launch was a failure, when in fact SpaceX never expected it to reach orbit and instead intended to use the problems that occurred during this engineering test launch to find out what engineering designs needed to be reworked.
This language illustrates the fundamental dishonesties that routinely permeate government actions. The funniest and most absurd example of this intellectual dishonesty however has to be the graphic posted to the right, taken from the GAO report. The graphic gives the false impression that Orion and Lunar Gateway are far larger than Starship, when in fact, several of both could easily fit inside Starship’s planned cargo bay. In fact, when Starship finally docks with Lunar Gateway the size difference is going to make NASA’s effort here seem very picayune. Apparently, the GAO (or possibly NASA) decided it needed to hide this reality.
The real problem NASA’s Artemis program faces is red tape coming from the FAA and Fish & Wildlife. The GAO fails to note this fact, which makes its report far less helpful than it could have been.
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