The Government Accountability Office has found that NASA‘s Space Launch System program still faces limited schedule and cost reserves that GAO believes could undermine the space agency’s goal of launching the heavy-lift rocket with an unmanned Orion spacecraft by November 2018.
NASA has worked to address some of the program’s technical issues that were cited by GAO in a July 2015 report, the government watchdog said Wednesday.
GAO, however, noted it believes unforeseen technical challenges may arise during the final integration of the launch vehicle, crew module and related exploration ground systems.
The agency also found that projects to modify the SLS Vehicle Assembly Building and Mobile Launcher as well as EGS development efforts have already exceeded cost and schedule projections.
NASA was scheduled to begin a review of the integrated systems designed for Exploration Mission 1.
GAO recommended that the space agency “re-evaluate SLS and EGS cost and schedule reserves based on results of the integrated design review… and to verify that the November 2018 launch readiness date remains feasible.”
GAO estimates the initial SLS flight, ground infrastructure operations and the first two Orion flights will cost nearly $23 billion.