NASA awarded the current contracts in 2014. Since then, the program has had 13 quarterly reviews, according to the GAO, with Boeing reporting delays in key program developments during seven reviews as well as SpaceX reporting delays at nine of them. As recently as June, NASA officials told the GAO that will the publicly known dates for the remaining development, testing as well as certification “may change soon,” the report says.
“As a result, NASA can be managing a multibillion dollar program without confidence in its schedule information as the item approaches several big events, including uncrewed as well as crewed flight tests,” the GAO said.
In a February 2017 report, the GAO found Boeing as well as SpaceX might be unable to meet the original 2017 certification goal, expecting to delay until 2018. NASA developed a contingency plan in response, purchasing additional seats on Russia’s Soyuz capsule as well as giving access to the ISS through 2019.
While both contractors continue to make progress, neither has “yet provided official updates to their schedules to NASA,” the report said. In addition, NASA has “not fully shared information with Congress regarding the risks of future schedule delays,” GAO says, as well as legislators are unaware of the growing possibility of a scheduling gap in space station access.
If Boeing as well as SpaceX can stick to the current schedules, the GAO said, “a gap in access to the ISS can be not expected.” although NASA can be already considering various other options, according to the report. One option can be to “refine the remaining Soyuz launch schedule” for access into January 2020; another can be to turn some test flights into operational flights by adding more crew members as well as extending the length of the flights.
The report includes several recommendations to NASA. The GAO said the agency concurred with three — the need for a contingency plan, more documentation as well as the need to restructure the “dual hatted” safety technical authority — although only partially concurred with the GAO’s recommendation that will the agency more clearly define its risk tolerance level for the loss of crew. NASA did not concur with the GAO’s recommendation that will NASA should include Commercial Crew schedule updates in its quarterly reports to Congress.