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Taurus XL rocket

Fraudulent suppliers responsible for NASA’s failed rocket launches

NASA (National Aeronautical Space Agency) is an independent space agency of the United States Federal government which is leading in the region of space exploration and research since it was founded back then in 29th July 1958 almost 60 years ago.

NASA has led its nation to glory around the world with many successful space missions and space exploration projects in the last 60 years. It has been allotted an annual budget of US$ 21.5 Billion in 2019. The budget allotted to NASA is increasing year on year and so is the responsibility of the shoulders of NASA to make their missions successful and prove their worth to the world. The annual budget of NASA is more than the budget of many developing countries of the world.

In the recent past in 2009 and 2011, two 92 foot Taurus rockets and climate monitoring satellites which they were carrying failed due to falsified data about the frangible joints. After a lengthy investigation which lasted a decade, NASA has pinned down the reasons as to why these missions failed. A supplier named Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI), an Oregon-based aluminium extrusion manufacturer had been sending faulty and sub-standard aluminium for rocket parts and after which the supplier altered test results and created falsifying certifications of the same.

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It falsified the results of tensile strength which was designed to ensure the consistency and reliability of the aluminium, it extruded. The company also shipped poorly made parts to its clients including Orbital ATK, the manufacturer of Taurus rockets. As the rocket ascends in the atmosphere, it sheds weight on its way in order to attain orbital velocity,however in the Taurus T8 mission failed because the payload  fairing did not separate during the ascent causing the rocket not to shed weight and as a result of extra weight, resulting in a total loss of the mission.

After the Department of Justice decided to crack down on the supplier, it has been ordered to pay a whopping $46 million to NASA and other government and private organizations as a mark of compensation to the losses and for the substandard supply of goods which they had been doing for 20 long years. It has also agreed to pay $ 34.6 million as a part of the civil settlement to US Departments. In the case of NASA, the resulting losses due to this is estimated to be more than US$ 700 million and has also resulted in a loss in years of people’s scientific work.

The director for launch services Jim Norman in a statement has said that NASA relies on the integrity and trust of the suppliers in the supply chain. He also added that NASA does not have resources to check and recheck each and every material and goods received from an external supplier however it does checking for many other components.

 

About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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