Science

Manufacturer's fake data led to Nasa rocket launch failures

Manufacturer's fake data led to Nasa rocket launch failures”

Sapa Profiles was contracted to manufacture parts for the fairings on two NASA satellite launches-the one in 2009 and another failed launch in 2011.

The investigation brought about the involvement of NASA's Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice in the case.

Two years after this, on March 4, 2011, another Taurus XL rocket launched from Vandenberg, again carrying a science payload for NASA.

A little more than a decade ago, on February 24, 2009, a Taurus XL rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California carrying a NASA satellite created to measure carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

During both launches, the payload fairing, which surround satellites during their ascent through Earth's atmosphere, failed to separate on command, preventing both spacecraft from reaching their orbital destinations and leading to their destruction. The company pleaded guilty on one count of mail fraud and can no longer do business with the USA federal government since September 20, 2015.

A joint effort between NASA and the US Department of Justice found that SPI had been falsifying thousands of test certifications for aluminium for nearly two decades. It was ultimately found that aluminum extrusions used were the root cause of the failure. "That is why we require and pay for certain components to be tested and certified by the supplier", said Jim Norman, NASA's director for launch services, in a statement. "In this case, our trust was severely violated", Norman said.

The company, now known as Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc., has agreed to pay NASA, the DOJ and other entities $46 million.

Sapa, which has since changed its name to Hydro Extrusion Portland, agreed to pay $US46 ($66) million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers - which doesn't even come close to the $US700 ($997) million NASA lost as a result of Taurus XL failures. The company is also excluded from contracting with the federal government. The cost of the two failed NASA launches alone was approximately $700 million, and other defrauded clients included the Department of Defense and hundreds of commercial clients.

"It has taken a long time to get here, involving years of investigation and testing, but as of today, it has been worth every minute, and I am extremely pleased with the entire team's efforts", said LSP program manager Amanda Mitskevich of NASA's Kennedy Space Center.



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