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NASA inspector general finds more cost overruns in the agency’s SLS rocket program

Surprise! Surprise! A new NASA inspector general report [pdf] has found that the agency’s SLS rocket program is continuing to experience cost overruns and mismanagement that are “obscene”, as noted in this news report.

An independent report published Thursday contained troubling findings about the money spent by the agency on propulsion for the Space Launch System rocket. Moreover, the report by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin warns that if these costs are not controlled, it could jeopardize plans to return to the Moon.

Bluntly, Martin wrote that if the agency does not rein in spending, “NASA and its contracts will continue to exceed planned cost and schedule, resulting in a reduced availability of funds, delayed launches, and the erosion of the public’s trust in the agency’s ability to responsibly spend taxpayer money and meet mission goals and objectives—including returning humans safely to the Moon.”

Things are really much worse than this, mostly because it appears the Marshall Space Flight Center that runs the SLS program for NASA uses cost-plus contracts, which are essentially a blank check for contractors to run up costs endlessly, all of which the government must cover, and allows the process to go over-schedule against its own regulations. Furthermore, the cost overruns are for rockets and engines that are not newly developed, but in use for decades by Northrop Grumman and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Note that this really isn’t news. Anyone with any intellectual honesty at all will know that every aspect of SLS and Orion is mismanaged and will go over budget and behind schedule endlessly. These problems are not a bug, however, but a feature of the system. The goals of SLS and Orion are not really to build a rocket to explore the solar system but to create an endless jobs program in congressional districts here on Earth. This misguided approach meanwhile robs America of a viable space effort because the money wasted could have actually been used to jumpstart a viable and competitive space-faring economy that actually achieves something.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!


From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.


“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.


All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.


  • Tregonsee

    Yet another WOMBAT: Waste of Money, Brains, and Time. Let Elon do it!

  • Ray Van Dune

    The trick for SpaceX is going to be to continue to meet their contractual obligations to Artemis, while progressing on their own Starship program that could probably replace it en mass. NASA probably won’t be able to admit that before they spend another few tens of billions on this pig!

    Of course, if Boeing chokes (see NASA Safety item), then that will just add to the pressure, as will any delays from ULA or BO, both notorious for delay at this point.

    Then we have the environmentalists and corrupto-crats that hate SpaceX… the Chinese must be enjoying this!

  • pzatchok

    The whole government contracting service changed after WWII and through out Korea.

    It used to be that manufacturers designed and built an item and then tried to sell it to the government. Then the government set requirements for what they wanted to buy and evaluated all manufacturers who submitted a working prototype.
    After WWII the government eventually switched to reviewing only proposals and not working prototypes. And then they issued the those wonderful cost plus contracts and even removed the requirements of ever making a working product.

    That was the real creation of the military industrial complex.

  • David Eastman

    The whole effort to make the RS-25 cheaper to build and operate has now inflated to the point where “cheaper” means “more expensive” unless the number of engines purchased goes to around 12 flights. At any number less than that, the money spent on the effort is greater than the cost reduction of the individual engines.

  • Richard M

    The goals of SLS and Orion are not really to build a rocket to explore the solar system but to create an endless jobs program in congressional districts here on Earth.

    In this respect, SLS *always* delivers its payload on schedule!

  • James Street

    Not to worry. It looks like the government is going to raise their debt ceiling so they’ll have plenty of money to throw around on things like this. Wall Street was up 2% on Friday on that good news as they know some of that loot will slush their way.

    The bad news the government is borrowing the money from our great, great-great, and great-great-great grand kids and writing bad checks to pay for it all.

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