oversight

Space Transportation: Status of the X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle Program

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-08-11.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to Congressional Requesters




August 1999
                   SPACE
                   TRANSPORTATION

                   Status of the X-33
                   Reusable Launch
                   Vehicle Program




GAO/NSIAD-99-176
United States General Accounting Office                                                             National Security and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                                       International Affairs Division



                                    B-281611                                                                                  Letter

                                    August 11, 1999

                                    The Honorable Dana Rohrabacher
                                    Chairman
                                    The Honorable Bart Gordon
                                    Ranking Minority Member
                                    Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics
                                    Committee on Science
                                    House of Representatives

                                    The purpose of the $1.3 billion X-33 Program, cosponsored by the National
                                    Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Lockheed Martin
                                    Corporation, is to develop and demonstrate advanced technologies and
                                    techniques needed for future reusable launch vehicles (RLV), including
                                    lightweight internal fuel tanks, advanced rocket engines, a durable heat
                                    shield, and rapid-turnaround, low-cost operations. The X-33 vehicle will be
                                    a half-scale model of Lockheed Martin’s planned single-stage-to-orbit
                                    (SSTO) Venture Star RLV, an operational vehicle that will be based on and
                                    developed after the X-33. Lockheed Martin and NASA will base the
                                    decision to proceed with developing the Venture Star, in part, on the results
                                    of the X-33 Program. NASA would potentially be one of Lockheed Martin’s
                                    primary customers for the cargo-only flights and, at this time, is the only
                                    anticipated customer for passenger flights. The passenger flights would
                                    carry crewmembers to and from the International Space Station.

                                    NASA and Lockheed Martin are conducting the X-33 Program under a
                                    cooperative agreement,1 a financial instrument with which a government
                                    entity and one or more public or private organizations jointly fund and
                                    implement an activity to achieve common objectives. Such a partnership
                                    was encouraged by the National Space Transportation Policy of 1994 as a
                                    means of (1) establishing NASA as the lead agency for technology
                                    development and demonstration of reusable space transportation systems
                                    and (2) positioning the government and the private sector to make
                                    decisions on the development of an operational, reusable launch system.
                                    Under the X-33 cooperative agreement, NASA’s contribution is




                                    1
                                     Lockheed Martin has made agreements with Allied Signal Aerospace, B.F. Goodrich Aerospace,
                                    Boeing-Rocketdyne Division, and Sverdrup Corporation to assist in the X-33 Program.




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                      $912.4 million, and the current estimate of Lockheed Martin’s and its
                      industry partners’ contributions is $286.6 million.

                      Because of the Subcommittee’s concerns about technical difficulties
                      encountered by the X-33 Program, you asked us to review the progress of
                      the program. As agreed with your offices, we (1) determined whether the
                      X-33 Program is meeting the cost, schedule, and performance objectives
                      established in the X-33 cooperative agreement, (2) determined how NASA’s
                      oversight responsibility was changed by the cooperative agreement, and
                      (3) identified potential issues NASA may face as it moves toward a decision
                      on whether to use Venture Star RLVs to service the International Space
                      Station.



Results in Brief      NASA and Lockheed Martin X-33 program managers anticipate that the
                      program will achieve technical requirements such as demonstrating the
                      feasibility of building large liquid hydrogen fuel tanks made of graphite
                      composite material.2 However, the program will not meet some original
                      cost, schedule, and performance objectives. Problems encountered by
                      Lockheed Martin while working toward the X-33 Program’s technical
                      requirements have caused cost increases, delay of the test vehicle’s first
                      flight, and revision of some performance objectives. The technical
                      problems occurred during development and fabrication of the X-33
                      vehicle’s internal fuel tanks, rocket engines, and thermal protection system,
                      the three key advanced technologies the program seeks to demonstrate.
                      Resolving these technical problems caused Lockheed Martin’s estimated
                      contribution to grow $75 million above the original estimate of
                      $211.6 million, to $286.6 million. However, part of the increase will be
                      borne by the government. Procurement regulations allow companies to
                      recover allowable independent research and development costs by
                      including them as overhead in the pricing for other government contracts.
                      Thus, Lockheed Martin’s and its partners’ shares may actually be lower. In
                      addition, estimated government costs for NASA civil service personnel
                      working on the program not included in NASA’s X-33 program budget also
                      increased. Together, these estimated costs increased from $216.9 million to
                      $274.3 million as of March 1999. As a result, we believe a more accurate
                      representation of the estimated government’s share of the X-33 Program is
                      $1.23 billion, while industry’s estimated share is $125.4 million.


                      2
                       Graphite composite is a high strength, low-weight material used to reduce structural weight by
                      replacing heavier metal components.




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As a result of the technical problems, the first flight of the X-33 vehicle was
delayed 16 months, from March 1999 to July 2000. Importantly, this could
delay NASA’s decision about whether to invest in space shuttle fleet
upgrades or rely on new launch vehicles such as Venture Star. The
technical problems and schedule constraints also resulted in changes to
program performance objectives, including a reduction of the test flight
speed for the X-33 vehicle.

To implement the terms of the X-33 cooperative agreement, NASA assigned
to Lockheed Martin the leadership role in executing the X-33 Program.
Under the agreement, NASA monitors and verifies the program’s progress
and makes payments to Lockheed Martin when milestones are met. NASA
also provides personnel and facilities at its field centers to perform
technical tasks for the program under the direction of Lockheed Martin.
An inherent characteristic of the cooperative agreement is the way in
which NASA conducts program oversight. According to NASA’s X-33
program manager, the agency’s oversight is different from that used for
traditional development contracts, as it relies on insight gained from NASA
employees working alongside Lockheed Martin personnel. NASA’s
Advisory Council, Program Management Council, and the Office of
Inspector General also periodically oversee the program and have reported
technical and management problems.

Several issues will need to be evaluated before NASA decides to use
Venture Star RLVs to support the International Space Station. First, the
results of the X-33 Program must provide sufficient information for NASA
to determine that the risks have been sufficiently reduced and that
continuation of activities leading to the agency’s use of Venture Star as a
customer is warranted. Second, even though Venture Star RLVs are
intended to be commercially owned and operated, government financial
incentives will likely be needed to initiate such a venture. Third, NASA
would have to pay for either two crew modules or modifications to Venture
Star vehicles if the crew return vehicle being developed for the
International Space Station is chosen as a means for Venture Star to carry
people. Fourth, because the Venture Star RLV would not carry as much
cargo as the space shuttle, additional flights would be needed. The more
frequent docking activities may reduce the amount of stable time available
for some science operations.

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 requires that federal
agencies prepare annual performance plans that establish measurable
objectives and performance targets for major programs. NASA’s Fiscal



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             Year 2000 Performance Plan does not include performance targets that
             establish a clear path leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an
             operational SSTO vehicle. Ensuring that results from the X-33 Program
             adequately support a confident decision to develop an SSTO vehicle such
             as the Venture Star deserves attention in NASA’s performance plan. We
             provide a recommendation to that effect.



Background   The X-33 Program is a key goal of NASA’s strategy to reduce launch costs
             from $10,000 per pound on the space shuttle to $1,000 per pound to low
             earth orbit by using SSTO RLVs. After a competitive conceptual design
             phase, NASA, in July 1996, signed the X-33 cooperative agreement with
             Lockheed Martin for the design, development, and flight-testing of the
             company’s X-33 advanced technology demonstration vehicle. To achieve
             this goal, NASA has established technical and performance objectives for
             the X-33 Program that the agency believes will lead to development of
             SSTO RLVs such as Venture Star. The technical objectives of the X-33
             Program are to develop and demonstrate the use of lightweight composite
             materials for internal liquid hydrogen fuel tanks, linear aerospike rocket
             engines, a durable thermal protection system, and aircraft-like operations.
             The performance objectives are to demonstrate the technologies by flying
             the X-33 vehicle and measuring its performance characteristics. The
             flight-test program requires the vehicle to make at least five flights and
             meet specific performance and technical requirements needed to validate
             key RLV technologies. Figure 1 is an illustration of the planned X-33
             vehicle, and figure 2 is an illustration of the planned Venture Star vehicle.




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Figure 1: Exterior Illustration of the Planned X-33 Vehicle




Source: NASA.




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                      Figure 2: Exterior Illustration of the Planned Venture Star Vehicle




                      Source: NASA.


                      To demonstrate the technologies and low-cost operations needed for SSTO
                      RLVs, the X-33 vehicle will be flown under autopilot in a series of suborbital
                      flight-tests from Edwards Air Force Base in California to the Michael Army
                      Airfield in Utah. Longer flights to Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana
                      are also planned. The program is scheduled for completion in December
                      2000.



Impact of Technical   As a result of problems encountered while working toward the program’s
                      technical requirements, Lockheed Martin’s estimated contribution to
Problems on Program   complete the X-33 cooperative agreement increased. However, part of the
Cost, Schedule, and   increase will be borne by the government. Some of Lockheed Martin’s and
                      its industry partners’ contributions could be considered independent
Performance           research and development costs and are potentially recoverable through
Objectives            pricing on other government contracts. Further, the X-33 vehicle’s



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                    flight-testing was delayed and some performance objectives were changed.
                    NASA and Lockheed Martin officials believe that despite the problems, the
                    X-33 Program will meet its original technical requirements and completion
                    date in December 2000.


Primary Technical   The X-33 Program experienced technical difficulties with each of the three
Difficulties        key technologies under development for the Venture Star RLV: the internal
                    composite liquid hydrogen fuel tanks, the linear aerospike engines, and the
                    durable thermal protection system (heat shield). Figure 3 shows a cutaway
                    illustration of the X-33 vehicle’s major subsystems, including the tanks,
                    rocket engines, and heat shield. The first major technical problem arose
                    during fabrication of the first of two internal composite liquid hydrogen
                    tanks. Sections of the tanks are made by bonding together layers of
                    composite materials. The sections are then bonded together to form lobes,
                    or quarter sections, which are, in turn, bonded together to form the tanks.
                    Difficulties were encountered in bonding two lobes onto a y-shaped joint in
                    the left-hand tank. The affected surface layers of the lobes were repaired
                    and reapplied to the joint. However, during the rebonding process, the
                    composite surface layers of the two lobes disbonded over large portions of
                    the lobes. The affected lobes were removed, and two new lobes were
                    fabricated and are being installed on the tank. The right-hand internal
                    hydrogen fuel tank did not experience such fabrication difficulties and is
                    currently undergoing qualification tests at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight
                    Center.




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Figure 3: Cutaway Interior Illustration of the Planned X-33 Vehicle




                                                                  Linear aerospike
 Composite liquid
                                                                  rocket engines (2)
 hydrogen tanks (2)


 Aluminum
 liquid
 oxygen tank




                             Metallic thermal
                             protection
                             system

Source: NASA.


The second major technical problem occurred while fabricating one of the
exhaust ramps for the linear aerospike rocket engines. Ten such ramps are
being made for the program. The exhaust ramps are made of layers of
copper alloy brazed together. Impurities in the brazing material caused the
layers of one ramp to disbond during the fabrication process. Two ramps
have been produced successfully since the problem occurred, according to
NASA and Lockheed Martin program managers.

The third technical problem occurred during fabrication of the thermal
protection system. The thermal protection system is composed of
individual heat-resistant metallic panels attached to the bottom and leading
edges of the vehicle’s exterior surfaces. The individual panels are made by
bonding together several layers of heat-resistant materials. Difficulties
encountered in bonding together the layers of the panels during the
fabrication process led to a high rejection rate and increased the amount of
time needed to make the panels. The panel fabrication process has been
improved, according to NASA and Lockheed Martin program managers.



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                          Production of the flat panels for the bottom of the vehicle is complete, and
                          most of the large curved panels for the vehicle’s leading edges have been
                          made. Bonding the layers of the smaller curved panels, which are also used
                          on the leading edges, has proven to be the most difficult. These panels are
                          still being fabricated, but are not expected to cause further schedule
                          delays, according to NASA and Lockheed Martin program managers.


Effects on Lockheed       As of March 1999, Lockheed Martin estimated that industry’s contributions
Martin’s Cooperative      to complete the X-33 cooperative agreement had increased by $75 million,
                          or 35.4 percent, from $211.6 million to $286.6 million. The increases were
Agreement Contributions
                          due primarily to the technical problems discussed above.3 Table 1 shows
                          the original and current estimated contributions for NASA and Lockheed
                          Martin to complete the X-33 Program as established in the cooperative
                          agreement. NASA’s contribution under the cooperative agreement remains
                          fixed at $912.4 million (see note “b” below).



                          Table 1: Original and Current Estimated Contributions for the X-33 Program

                          Then-year dollarsa in millions
                                                                                                                            Percent
                                                                        July 1996      March 1999         Changes          changes
                          NASA program budgetb                           $1,012.2          $1,012.2              0.0            0.0
                          Lockheed Martin and industry                       211.6            286.6          +$75.0           +35.4
                          partners’ contributions
                          Total                                          $1,223.8          $1,298.8          +$75.0            +6.1
                          a
                              Then-year dollars represent the estimated actual value of the funds for a particular year.
                          b
                           NASA’s contribution to the X-33 Cooperative Agreement is $912.4 million. The remaining $99.8
                          million in the program budget is for NASA headquarters costs, related research and development
                          activities, and program office operations.


                          Lockheed Martin program officials anticipate that industry’s estimated
                          contribution to complete the X-33 Program under the cooperative
                          agreement will need to be increased between $10 million and $64 million to
                          resolve the existing technical problems. Lockheed Martin has not yet
                          formally revised the industry team’s estimated contributions to reflect any
                          such increase. NASA and Lockheed Martin are implementing cost


                          3
                           The allocation of cost increases associated with individual problems is not discussed due to the
                          proprietary nature of the information.




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                         reduction strategies to limit the increases by deleting some Venture Star
                         development tasks and reducing Lockheed Martin’s X-33 workforce. The
                         final cost of the program will depend on the results of Lockheed Martin’s
                         current cost-control efforts and the cost to resolve any future technical
                         problems.


Effects on Total         Under the terms of the cooperative agreement, NASA’s contribution to the
Government and Net       X-33 development program remains fixed, and Lockheed Martin and the
                         industry partners are responsible for all cost growth. However, at least
Industry Contributions
                         some cost growth may be recovered by Lockheed Martin and the industry
                         partners by including the costs in their pricing for other government
                         contracts. Further, costs for NASA personnel working on the X-33 Program
                         are paid from other NASA budgets. Thus, the government’s share of the
                         costs for the X-33 Program is greater than that represented in the
                         cooperative agreement.

                         First, as recognized in the agreement, Lockheed Martin and its industry
                         partners plan to recover portions of their contributions by classifying them
                         as independent research and development (IRAD) expenses and then
                         including them as overhead in other government contracts. Federal
                         acquisition regulations4 allow companies to recover IRAD costs by
                         including such expenses as overhead in pricing of other government
                         contracts. Because Lockheed Martin has contracts with other government
                         agencies, such as the Department of Defense, those agencies’ budgets may
                         bear some of these costs. Lockheed Martin and its partners plan to recover
                         from the government an estimated $161.2 million of their estimated
                         $286.6 million contribution to the agreement. Thus, as shown in table 2,
                         Lockheed Martin’s and the industry partners’ potential net contribution for
                         the X-33 Program could be as low as $125.4 million. However, an audit or
                         review must be conducted to determine the portion of the contributions
                         allocable as overhead on other government contracts. Additional increases
                         in industry’s contributions to the X-33 Program will also potentially
                         increase the amount of IRAD reimbursements the partners receive from the
                         government.




                         4
                          Federal Acquisition Regulation 31.205-18—Independent Research and Development and Bid and
                         Proposal Costs.




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Table 2: Estimated Total Industry Contribution for the X-33 Program, Factoring in
Potential IRAD Reimbursements

Then-year dollars in millions
                                                                                            Percent
                                          July 1996      March 1999        Changes         changes
Total contribution to cooperative
agreement                                     $211.6          $286.6a         + $75.0         + 35.4
Potential government IRAD
reimbursement                                  121.7            161.2b        + 39.5          + 32.5
Net industry contribution                       $89.9          $125.4         + $35.5          + 39.5
a
 Industry partners’ contributions to the cooperative agreement will increase between $10 million and
$64 million to resolve the program’s technical problems, according to a Lockheed Martin official.
b
Government reimbursements of industry IRAD costs will increase by an estimated $5 million to $32.5
million, depending on how much the industry partners’ contributions grow, according to a Lockheed
Martin official.


Second, costs not in the X-33 cooperative agreement or NASA’s X-33
program budget include salaries, benefits, and support services for the
government personnel working on the program at various NASA centers.
These personnel costs will be paid out of another NASA budget account.
As shown in table 3, the current estimate is $113.1 million as of March 1999.
The government’s final share of the program’s total cost also depends on
the amount of IRAD costs determined to be recoverable, the results of
Lockheed Martin’s cost control efforts, and the nature of any future
technical problems.




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                           Table 3: Estimated Total Government Costs for the X-33 Program, Factoring in
                           Potential IRAD Reimbursement and Personnel Costs

                           Then-year dollars in millions
                                                                                                                        Percent
                           X-33 Cost elements                         July 1996     March 1999         Changes         changes
                           NASA X-33 program budget                    $1,012.2         $1,012.2             $0.0             0.0
                                                                                                   b
                           Potential government                           121.7            161.2          + 39.5          + 32.5
                           reimbursement of industry
                           IRADa costs
                           Government personnel costsc                     95.2             113.1         + 17.9           +18.8
                           Sub-totals of government                       216.9             274.3         + 57.4          + 26.5
                           costs outside X-33 budget
                           Total government costs                      $1,229.1         $1,286.5         + $57.4            +4.7
                           a
                               Independent research and development
                           b
                            Government reimbursements of Lockheed Martin and its partners’ IRAD costs will increase by an
                           estimated $5 million to $32.5 million, depending on how much of the estimated $10 million to $64
                           million cost increase is realized, according to a Lockheed Martin official.
                           c
                            These costs are estimates through completion of the program and include salaries, benefits, training,
                           and travel costs.




First Test Flight Delays   Problems encountered during fabrication of the engines and one of the
                           internal liquid hydrogen fuel tanks led to a 16-month delay of the first test
                           flight of the X-33 vehicle, from March 1999 to July 2000. However, the
                           program’s December 2000 completion date remains unchanged. Lockheed
                           Martin has maintained the original X-33 Program completion date by
                           reducing Venture Star design and development work that the company had
                           planned to accomplish during the X-33 Program. Table 4 shows the original
                           date for the first flight and subsequent changes and the associated delay of
                           the first flight date. Although problems in fabricating the thermal
                           protection system panels delayed delivery milestones of the panels, the
                           delay did not cause a delay in the first flight schedule because the schedule
                           had already been delayed by the engine and fuel tank problems.




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Table 4: X-33 Program Schedule Changes

Program milestones           Original milestone date          First revised date      Second revised date              Third revised date
Liquid H2 tank delivery      Dec. 1997                        Oct.1998                Mar.1999                         July 1999a
complete
Aerospike engines delivery   Aug.1998b                        Feb.1999                Sept.1999                        Oct.1999c
complete
First X-33 flight-test       Mar.1999                         July 1999               Dec.1999                         July 2000
                                         a
                                             For the left-hand fuel tank. The delivery date for the right-hand tank was May 1999.
                                         b
                                             For the second of two flight engines.
                                         c
                                             For delivery of both engines.


                                         Delays in the X-33 Program may affect NASA’s investment plans for future
                                         space-launch programs, including decisions on whether and when to
                                         upgrade the space shuttle fleet or rely on a new launch vehicle, such as the
                                         Venture Star RLV. NASA originally planned to decide in 2000 whether to
                                         upgrade the space shuttle fleet and, if so, which upgrades to implement.
                                         NASA now plans to make its recommendations for a future space
                                         transportation investment strategy as part of the fiscal year 2001 budget
                                         process, which starts in the later part of 2000.


Performance Objectives                   Technical problems and schedule constraints led Lockheed Martin and
Revised                                  NASA to change two X-33 Program objectives and flight-test milestones.
                                         First, Lockheed Martin and NASA chose to use an internal liquid oxygen
                                         tank made of aluminum for the X-33 vehicle, instead of the lightweight
                                         composite materials used for the internal liquid hydrogen tank. Schedule
                                         constraints early in the program led Lockheed Martin to exercise its option
                                         under the cooperative agreement to use an internal oxygen tank made of
                                         aluminum instead of the lightweight composite materials used for the
                                         internal liquid hydrogen tank. An operational Venture Star RLV will likely
                                         require a lightweight composite liquid oxygen tank to reduce the vehicle’s
                                         weight and achieve SSTO operations. The X-33 Program plans to
                                         demonstrate the primary elements of this technology by building a
                                         small-scale 10-foot-diameter composite liquid oxygen tank that will be
                                         tested on the ground.

                                         Second, the test flight speed objective was reduced from Mach5 15 to
                                         Mach 13.8. According to Lockheed Martin and NASA X-33 program
                                         managers, the maximum flight-test speed was reduced because the detailed
                                         design phase of the program determined that the vehicle’s projected weight



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would exceed design requirements and prevent it from reaching Mach 15.
After reviewing the vehicle’s design and the technical objectives for the
flight-tests, a panel of experts convened by NASA concluded that the
flight-test technical objectives could be achieved at a lower speed.
Lockheed Martin and NASA program officials told us that weight reduction
measures have already been incorporated into the preliminary design of the
Venture Star RLV to meet the vehicle weight requirements.

The weight reduction measures are based on lessons learned designing and
building the X-33 test vehicle. One of the weight-saving modifications is to
attach the Venture Star vehicle’s thermal protection system panels directly
to the vehicle’s interior structure and fuel tanks, eliminating the weight of
the attachment structures used on the X-33 vehicle. Other weight-reducing
modifications for the Venture Star RLVs include lighter weight composite
and ceramic engine components and composite internal liquid oxygen
tanks. Although the composite and ceramic components have not been
demonstrated, NASA and Lockheed Martin plan to reduce the technical
risks of providing these technologies for the Venture Star RLVs through
ground-based demonstrations during the X-33 Program.

In addition to the revised performance objectives, the scheduled length of
the X-33 flight-test program was reduced from 10 to 3 months, and the
original single program flight-test milestone and payment schedule were
changed so that there are now three flight-test milestones and payments.
The original flight-test program required Lockheed Martin to obtain
specific technical data and demonstrate rapid and efficient aircraft-like
operations in 15 test flights over a 10-month period. Upon completion of
these objectives, NASA was to pay the company a $75-million payment for
successfully completing the flight-test program. The current program plan
provides for a $60-million payment after the technical data and vehicle
operations objectives are achieved, and the vehicle has flown at least five
flights. After the initial flight-test objectives have been achieved, NASA will
pay the company $10 million if it completes five more flights, and another
$5 million if it completes the last five flights. According to NASA’s X-33
program manager, the additional flights will further demonstrate rapid and
low-cost RLV operations and build investors’ confidence that privately
financed RLVs are feasible.



5
 Mach numbers represent speed measured as units of the speed of sound, which is 741 miles per hour
at sea level. For example, Mach 2 equals 1,482 miles per hour.




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                            The changes to the X-33 flight-test program were made in order to reduce
                            the risk that Lockheed Martin would receive no payment if the company
                            achieved all of the technical and operational objectives but did not
                            complete all of the planned 15 test flights. The required technical data will
                            be obtained by observing, recording, and analyzing the vehicle’s behavior
                            during and after the test flights. Demonstration of aircraft-like operations
                            requires that the X-33 vehicle fly one 2-day turnaround flight and two
                            consecutive 7-day turnaround flights. Although the scheduled flight-test
                            program is now only 3 months long, flight-tests will continue longer if
                            needed to achieve program objectives, according to NASA’s X-33 program
                            manager.



NASA’s and Lockheed         According to NASA program officials, the X-33 cooperative agreement
                            establishes a partnership business relationship between NASA and
Martin’s Financial and      Lockheed Martin. Changes to the cooperative agreement require bilateral
Oversight Roles             agreement. The agreement assigns to Lockheed Martin responsibility for
                            managing and implementing the X-33 Program but also permits substantial
                            involvement of NASA personnel in performing various program technical
                            tasks at NASA centers, under the direction of Lockheed Martin. NASA’s
                            oversight of the X-33 Program is different from that used for traditional
                            government contracts, as it relies on insight gained from NASA employees
                            working alongside Lockheed Martin personnel.


Lockheed Martin and NASA    NASA used a cooperative agreement instead of a traditional contract, in
Financial Obligations and   part, to reduce its financial risk by capping its contribution. Through the
                            agreement, NASA seeks to facilitate the creation and commercialization of
Roles
                            a low-cost space-launch service industry, of which NASA would be a major
                            customer. The cooperative agreement defines each party’s roles and
                            responsibilities in conducting the program. Lockheed Martin is to provide
                            22.1 percent of the funding, define the X-33 vehicle’s technical and
                            performance requirements, and, with inputs from its industry partners and
                            NASA, design and build the vehicle. Lockheed Martin will also conduct
                            flight-tests of the X-33 vehicle and decide with NASA whether to build a
                            fleet of two operational Venture Star RLVs. This decision will be based, in
                            part, on criteria developed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy,
                            the Office of Management and Budget, NASA, and Lockheed Martin.




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Agreement Establishes   An inherent characteristic of the cooperative agreement is the way in
Oversight Approach      which NASA conducts oversight of Lockheed Martin’s work on the X-33
                        Program. The cooperative agreement enables NASA to obtain insight into
                        the program, according to the NASA program manager. In traditional
                        research and development contracts, NASA sends personnel to contractor
                        facilities to perform an extensive review of whether the contractor
                        performed its assigned tasks in accordance with contract specifications.
                        Under the X-33 cooperative agreement, insights are gained through NASA
                        technical personnel working alongside personnel from Lockheed Martin
                        and other industry partners. This ongoing involvement in the work enables
                        NASA to obtain real-time and detailed insight into program activities. As an
                        example, NASA’s X-33 program manager cited the situation where NASA
                        became aware that layers of one lobe of the X-33 vehicle’s internal
                        composite hydrogen fuel tank had unbonded on December 24, 1998, the
                        day after the problem occurred in Sunnyvale, California.

                        NASA’s primary oversight activities for the X-33 Program consist of
                        program office monitoring of Lockheed Martin’s progress in meeting
                        program milestones and verifying that the company has achieved the
                        milestone performance requirements specified in the cooperative
                        agreement before payments are made. NASA’s Advisory Council, Program
                        Management Council, and Office of Inspector General also provide
                        program oversight.

                        NASA’s X-33 program office has taken specific oversight actions in
                        response to problems with the program. For example, since the
                        cooperative agreement provides that milestone payments are made only
                        after performance criteria have been met, independent of when the
                        milestones are scheduled for completion, the program office withholds all
                        subsequent payments until satisfactory accomplishment of the
                        performance criteria. In another case, after several requests to Lockheed
                        Martin for action, the program office notified Lockheed Martin that the
                        agency planned to withhold $500,000 from all subsequent milestone
                        payments because the company’s system integration work on the X-33
                        Program was inadequate. According to NASA’s X-33 program manager,
                        Lockheed Martin complied with NASA’s request to strengthen the
                        program’s system integration function by creating a system engineer
                        position in its program office at the same level as the program manager.

                        The NASA Advisory Council performs periodic reviews of the X-33
                        Program. Members of the NASA Advisory Council are volunteers
                        appointed by NASA. The Council reports to the NASA Administrator. At a



                        Page 16                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
B-281611




recent meeting,6 Council members discussed concerns about (1) whether
there was a clear growth path leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an
operational SSTO vehicle and (2) NASA’s lack of funding to pursue the
shuttle/space station programs and SSTO development at the same time.

The Program Management Council is NASA’s senior agency review board
and oversees planning, implementation, and management of all major
NASA programs. NASA’s Associate Deputy Administrator chairs the
Council, and senior executives of NASA’s functional and staff offices are
members. In its most recent review of the X-33 Program, the Council’s
review team concluded, among other things, that (1) due to technical
problems, the program may not be able to meet its technical and
performance objectives within current funding and schedule plans; (2) if
the program does not achieve its technical and performance objectives, the
program may not be able to support an informed decision on the viability of
a near-term SSTO RLV; and (3) the program should be completed because
of the value provided by the program’s planned demonstration of several
first-of-a-kind technologies as a system.

In a recent audit report7 on the X-33 cooperative agreement, the NASA
Office of Inspector General found that the agreement had provided NASA
with certain benefits, including faster program initiation and greater
management flexibility. However, the report also attributed a number of
program management problems to the agreement, including lack of full and
prompt compliance with some NASA management procedures, inaccurate
internal reporting of some program costs, incomplete government property
reports, and uncertainty concerning ownership of the X-33 vehicle. In a
written response to a draft of the Inspector General’s audit report, NASA’s
Office of Aerospace Technology concurred with all nine recommendations
in the report. In response to NASA’s comments, the Office of Inspector
General stated that the agency’s planned and implemented actions were
generally responsive to seven of the nine recommendations and that it
would request additional comments and information concerning the
remaining two recommendations.




6
    NASA Advisory Council Meeting Report Minutes, December 3-4, 1998.
7
  Audit Report: X-33 Cooperative Agreement, NASA Office of Inspector General, IG-99-019,
Mar. 29, 1999.




Page 17                                                GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                          B-281611




Issues Facing NASA If     Before NASA decides to use Venture Star RLVs to support the space station,
                          it will need to evaluate (1) whether adequate progress has been made in
Venture Star Is Used to   reducing risks by resolving the technical challenges to developing an
Support the               operational RLV; (2) what government financial incentives, such as loan
                          guarantees, may be needed to assist in developing an operational fleet of
International Space       Venture Star RLVs; (3) what NASA’s costs would be to build at least two
Station                   crew modules for a RLV to carry crews to and from the space station; and
                          (4) what the effects would be on the maintenance and operation of the
                          space station and its science experiments.


Confidence That X-33      In 1995 the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of
Results Support RLV       Management and Budget, and NASA jointly established criteria to be used
                          in deciding whether the government should proceed beyond the X-33
Development Decision
                          Program to support development of an operational SSTO Venture Star RLV.
                          These criteria include (1) demonstration of the X-33 Program’s technical
                          objectives, including technical traceability8 to Venture Star;
                          (2) demonstration that a cooperative government/industry technology
                          development program can be successful and efficient; and
                          (3) establishment of acceptable business arrangements between
                          government and industry that facilitate the development and operation of
                          the next generation of space-launch systems. The criteria envision that the
                          timing of NASA’s decision to use the Venture Star coincides, at the end of
                          the decade, with decisions on funding for space shuttle investments needed
                          to continue operations through 2012. The specific technical criteria for
                          proceeding beyond the X-33 Program include requirements that the NASA
                          and industry team use a flight-test vehicle to demonstrate technologies that
                          are scalable to potential SSTO RLV configurations. These configurations
                          include the basic booster design, reusable internal composite or metallic
                          tanks and primary structures, reusable and durable thermal protection
                          system materials, and operational concepts.

                          NASA’s Advisory Council has raised concerns that there may not be a clear
                          growth path leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an operational
                          SSTO vehicle. We share this concern.




                          8
                           Traceability in this case means that X-33 technologies and operational techniques can provide some of
                          the risk reduction needed to eventually build and fly full-scale operational Venture Star RLVs.




                          Page 18                                                GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                            B-281611




                            The Government Performance and Results Act directs that federal agencies
                            promulgate annual performance plans that describe (1) the agency’s
                            performance goals and measures, (2) the strategies and resources to
                            achieve these goals, and (3) procedures to verify and validate reported
                            performance. NASA’s Fiscal Year 2000 Performance Plan states that the
                            overall objective of the X-33 Program is to revolutionize space-launch
                            capabilities. The plan also states that the program will demonstrate
                            technologies that (1) are traceable to a mass fraction of less than
                            10 percent of empty vehicle weight that is required for future RLVs,
                            (2) validate key aerothermodymanic environments, (3) enable the X-33
                            vehicle to fly faster than Mach 13.8, (4) allow the vehicle to perform one
                            2-day turnaround flight and consecutive 7-day turnaround flights, and
                            (5) enable the vehicle to be maintained by a 50-person ground crew. The
                            combined results are intended to reduce technical risk in the full-scale
                            development of an operational RLV. However, the only measurable
                            performance target associated with the X-33 Program in the plan is to
                            conduct flight-testing of the X-33 vehicle. No further targets are identified
                            that would provide an indication that NASA can successfully demonstrate
                            that it is on a growth path leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an
                            operational SSTO vehicle.


Government Incentives for   NASA and Lockheed Martin foresee that the federal government may need
Venture Star Vehicles       to provide financial incentives before Lockheed Martin can begin building
                            Venture Star RLVs. Government incentives could be needed to enable
                            Lockheed Martin to secure affordable private-sector financing of the
                            estimated $7.2-billion cost of building two RLVs and begin flight operations.
                            Borrowing costs for the Venture Star might be relatively high because
                            investors would require a high rate of return due to the technical risks
                            inherent in building a new space-launch vehicle. Government incentives
                            could take several forms, including loan guarantees, or NASA-funded
                            technology development efforts.

                            If technical risks are not sufficiently reduced by the X-33 Program,
                            additional NASA funding may be needed for further technology
                            development of critical technologies to be used in future RLVs, including
                            the Venture Star. For example, if the X-33 Program has not sufficiently
                            developed the technologies needed for an operational RLV, NASA could
                            approve a limited extension of the program to address technical
                            uncertainties. Further, NASA already plans to fund future research and
                            development programs for RLV technologies. NASA’s technology




                            Page 19                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                            B-281611




                            development efforts to mature SSTO and RLV technologies include the
                            Future-X and Advanced Space Transportation Programs.


Requirement for Venture     Lockheed Martin plans to build Venture Star RLVs that initially carry only
Star Crew Modules           cargo and begin flights in 2005. Lockheed Martin is designing the Venture
                            Star vehicles primarily to meet the needs of potential commercial
                            customers who want to launch satellites. However, because much of
                            Lockheed Martin’s Venture Star projected revenues will come from
                            servicing the International Space Station, the company is exploring design
                            modifications that would enable the vehicles to carry four or five
                            crewmembers. According to NASA’s X-33 program manager, if the agency
                            chooses to use Venture Star RLVs to service the International Space
                            Station, NASA would need to obtain either two crew modules, at an
                            estimated cost between $900 million and $1.2 billion, to be carried in the
                            Venture Star cargo bay or two crew transfer/return vehicles being
                            developed for the International Space Station.9 According to Lockheed
                            Martin, the Venture Star vehicle would automatically rendezvous and dock
                            with the space station, allowing new crewmembers to board the space
                            station and disembarking crewmembers to return to Earth with the vehicle.
                            The company plans to initiate Venture Star passenger service in 2007.
                            Before passenger services could begin, the Venture Star vehicles would
                            have to be evaluated and certified to meet NASA’s human space flight safety
                            requirements.


Effect of Venture Star on   If NASA decides to use Venture Star RLVs for space station servicing
Space Station Operations    missions, disruptions to the station’s operations may increase because of
                            the more frequent dockings by Venture Star vehicles. The agency’s current
                            projections show that between two and three Venture Star flights would be
                            required to replace each space shuttle resupply mission because the space
                            shuttle can carry heavier payloads.

                            The space station requires replenishment of supplies such as propulsion
                            fuel, spare parts, food, water, air, and science experiments. Periodic
                            replacement of station crewmembers is also required. NASA currently
                            plans to use an average of five shuttle flights per year to resupply the
                            station and to have some of its partners provide an average of eight


                            9
                             The crew return vehicle for the International Space Station is being considered as an alternative
                            passenger accommodation that would be attached to the exterior of the Venture Star RLVs.




                            Page 20                                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
              B-281611




              resupply flights per year to the station on other launch vehicles. Additional
              resupply flights would likely be required to provide the people and
              materials needed to solve technical problems that may arise aboard the
              space station.

              Each space shuttle can carry 34,200 pounds of cargo, including up to seven
              people, to the space station. However, in servicing the International Space
              Station, a Venture Star RLV would be able to carry 25,800 pounds of cargo
              or three to four people and a small amount of cargo. Also, NASA plans to
              use shuttle crewmembers on the resupply flights to perform maintenance
              of the station. According to NASA X-33 program officials, Venture Star
              RLVs would have to make two to three flights to provide as much cargo, as
              many people, or as much maintenance support to the space station as a
              single shuttle flight. The actual number of flights would depend on the mix
              of cargo, people, and maintenance operations required for a particular
              mission.

              The Venture Star would then require more docking and undocking
              operations, potentially disrupting some scientific activities aboard the
              space station. Operations that may be performed on the space station,
              including the growth of large inorganic and protein crystals, would require
              that the station be stable and relatively free of vibrations. Docking and
              undocking operations create vibrations. Although NASA plans to provide
              stable periods between resupply missions, more frequent docking and
              undocking operations would reduce the amount of stable time available for
              conducting scientific operations.



Conclusions   The X-33 Program is intended to provide Lockheed Martin and NASA with
              sufficient data to decide whether the technical challenges to develop an
              operational RLV can be resolved. The importance NASA attaches to this
              program is reflected in the agency’s over $1 billion commitment to the X-33
              Program. After the X-33 Program is completed, Lockheed Martin, with
              input from NASA, will decide whether to build and operate at least two
              Venture Star SSTO RLVs. NASA hopes to realize significant savings by
              using Venture Star RLVs instead of space shuttles to service the
              International Space Station. However, before a decision can be made, key
              issues need to be evaluated, specifically: (1) whether X-33 Program results
              provide the confidence that risks have been reduced to proceed with the
              development of the Venture Star, (2) whether and how much government
              financial incentives would be needed to develop the Venture Star, (3) what
              NASA’s cost to develop passenger modules for Venture Star would be, and



              Page 21                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                      B-281611




                      (4) how the adverse effects on station operations and maintenance would
                      be mitigated.

                      Ensuring that X-33 Program results adequately support a confident
                      decision to develop Venture Star deserves attention in NASA’s performance
                      plan. In particular, the plan would be strengthened if it recognizes the
                      importance of securing an indication that the agency is (1) on a growth
                      path leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an operational RLV and
                      (2) making progress toward its objective of significantly reducing launch
                      costs.



Recommendation        In light of NASA’s large investment in the X-33 Program and the important
                      role the program plays in NASA’s future plans, we recommend that the
                      NASA Administrator include in the agency’s Fiscal Year 2001 Performance
                      Plan performance targets for the X-33 Program that establish a clear path
                      leading from the X-33 flight-test vehicle to an operational RLV and show
                      progress toward meeting the agency’s objective of significantly reducing
                      launch costs.



Agency Comments and   NASA’s Associate Deputy Administrator provided written comments on a
                      draft of this report. NASA concurred with our recommendation that more
Our Evaluation        specific and measurable performance targets for the X-33 Program should
                      be included in the agency’s performance plans. NASA also stated it had
                      some significant differences in opinion and summarized its positions on
                      several issues. For example, NASA commented on the impact of X-33 flight
                      test delays on decisions associated with investing in space shuttle
                      upgrades; the allocation of IRAD costs and the extent they will be
                      reimbursable; and the achievement of program performance objectives.

                      NASA commented that while there are delays to the flight-test program, the
                      overall X-33 Program remains within the original schedule. As a result,
                      NASA stated that flight delays should not impact decisions associated with
                      investing in space shuttle upgrades. In the draft report provided to NASA
                      for comment, we stated that delays in the X-33 Program may affect NASA's
                      investment plans for future space-launch programs, including decisions on
                      whether and when to upgrade the space shuttle fleet or rely on a new
                      launch vehicle. We continue to believe that the possibility of such an
                      impact still exists. As indicated in this report, one of the key issues facing
                      NASA is whether X-33 Program results provide confidence that risks have



                      Page 22                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
B-281611




been reduced. We believe that the feasibility of transferring the key
technologies demonstrated on the X-33 to an RLV such as the Venture Star
cannot be adequately known until flights have been completed and results
analyzed. That will be a challenge with a flight-test program that has been
reduced from 10 to 3 months.

With regards to the IRAD issue, NASA made two points. First, the agency
stated that costs contributed by contractors under cost-shared cooperative
agreements with any federal agency are allowable IRAD costs as long as
the costs would have been allowed under federal regulations.
Consequently, NASA commented that Lockheed Martin is not receiving a
unique benefit. Second, NASA stated that the inference cannot be drawn
that Lockheed Martin, or its partners, may recover most of their
contributions; and that an audit is needed to ascertain the portion of the
contributions allocable to government contracts. Regarding the first point
made by NASA, we do not suggest that the contractor is receiving a unique
benefit. Rather, our purpose in identifying IRAD costs and estimated
reimbursements is to provide clarification on the total estimated costs that
will be incurred by the government beyond that identified in the X-33
cooperative agreement. As to the second point, our intent was to identify
the estimated contribution that will be made by Lockheed Martin and its
partners factoring in potential reimbursement of industry IRAD costs. We
agree that inference should not be drawn that Lockheed Martin, or its
partners, will recover most of their costs; and that actual reimbursement
will require an audit or review to ascertain the portion of the contribution
allocable to government contracts. We have modified the text to reflect the
need for such an audit.

NASA also commented that it is inappropriate to imply that the X-33
performance objectives have been reduced. The agency stated that the
initial objectives were embodied in the cooperative agreement notice used
to initiate the program. NASA stated that specific technical and operations
technology requirements identified were (1) a minimum of fifteen X-33
flights under main rocket power, (2) a minimum of two flights that meet or
exceed a Mach number of 15, (3) demonstration of a 7-day turnaround on a
minimum of three consecutive flights, and (4) demonstration of a 2-day
turnaround at least once. NASA indicated that specific technical criteria
were later established in May 1998. At that time, NASA determined that
such criteria could be satisfied at a lower Mach number. Changes were
also made, NASA further stated, to break up the flight program into three
blocks. We believe the report accurately presents the history and status of
these X-33 program performance objectives. In discussing the impact of



Page 23                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
              B-281611




              technical problems on the X-33 Program performance objectives, our
              report identifies both the allowable change to an aluminum liquid oxygen
              tank and the reduction in flight speed. Our report is consistent with
              NASA's position. We clearly state that the X-33 Program may demonstrate
              the technical, operations, and business feasibility of a SSTO RLV, but at a
              lower speed. In addition, our report provides information regarding the
              breaking up of the flight program and associated payment conditions.

              NASA also provided technical comments that we incorporated where
              appropriate. NASA’s written comments and our full evaluation are
              presented in appendix I.



Scope and     To determine whether the X-33 Program is meeting its original cost,
              schedule, and performance objectives, we interviewed officials at NASA
Methodology   headquarters, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama,
              and at the NASA X-33 program office at Palmdale, California. We also
              spoke with Lockheed Martin officials at the company’s X-33 program office
              at Palmdale. To determine how NASA’s oversight responsibility was
              changed by the cooperative agreement, we interviewed officials at NASA
              headquarters, the X-33 program office, and Lockheed Martin officials at the
              company’s X-33 program office. We reviewed the X-33 cooperative
              agreement, regulations concerning NASA’s use of a cooperative agreement
              for the X-33 Program, NASA and Lockheed Martin documents pertaining to
              the management and execution of the X-33 Program, and reports issued by
              the NASA Office of Inspector General and the NASA Advisory Council. To
              identify potential issues facing NASA if the agency decides to use Venture
              Star RLVs to service the International Space Station, we interviewed
              officials at NASA’s Headquarters; Langley Research Center, Hampton,
              Virginia; and the X-33 program office. We also spoke with Lockheed Martin
              officials at the company’s X-33 program office. We reviewed NASA
              planning documents pertaining to the space shuttle and International Space
              Station programs. We did not attempt to verify the data provided by NASA
              and Lockheed Martin.

              We conducted our review from November 1998 to June 1999 in accordance
              with generally accepted government auditing standards.


              Unless you publicly announce its contents earlier, we plan no further
              distribution of this report until 14 days from its issue date. At that time, we
              will send copies to the Chairmen and Ranking Minority Members of the


              Page 24                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation; the
Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space, Senate Committee on
Commerce, Science and Transportation; and the House Committee on
Science. We will also send copies to the Administrator of NASA and the
Director of the Office of Management and Budget. We will also make
copies available to other interested parties on request.

Please contact me at (202) 512-4841 if you or your staff have any questions
concerning this report. Key contributors to this assignment were Jerry
Herley, Jeffery Webster, and Lorene Sarne.




Allen Li
Associate Director
Defense Acquisitions Issues




Page 25                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
Appendix I

Comments From the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration                                                      AppenIx
                                                                                    di




Note: GAO comments
supplementing those in the
report text appear at the end
of this appendix.




See p. 22.




                                Page 26   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                        Appendix I
                        Comments From the National Aeronautics
                        and Space Administration




See p. 22 &
comment 1, p. 33.




See p. 23 &
comment 2, p. 33.




See comment 3, p. 33.




                        Page 27                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                        Appendix I
                        Comments From the National Aeronautics
                        and Space Administration




See comment 4, p. 33.




See p. 23 &
comment 5, p. 33.




                        Page 28                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                        Appendix I
                        Comments From the National Aeronautics
                        and Space Administration




See comment 6, p. 34.




See comment 7, p. 34.




                        Page 29                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                        Appendix I
                        Comments From the National Aeronautics
                        and Space Administration




See p. 22.




No comment.




See comment 7, p. 34.




                        Page 30                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
       Appendix I
       Comments From the National Aeronautics
       and Space Administration




Letr   Page 31                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
Appendix I
Comments From the National Aeronautics
and Space Administration




Page 32                                  GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
               Appendix I
               Comments From the National Aeronautics
               and Space Administration




               The following are GAO’s evaluations of the National Aeronautics and Space
               Administration’s (NASA) letter dated July 1, 1999.



GAO Comments   1. We continue to believe that flight delays may affect NASA’s investment
               plans for future space-launch programs. As indicated in this report, one of
               the key issues facing NASA is whether X-33 Program results provide
               confidence that risks have been reduced. We believe that the feasibility of
               transferring the key technologies demonstrated on the X-33 to an RLV such
               as the Venture Star cannot be adequately known until flights have been
               completed and results analyzed; and that it will be challenging to do so in a
               flight-test program which has been reduced from 10 to 3 months.

               2. We agree with NASA’s point that Lockheed Martin is not receiving a
               unique benefit. Our purpose in identifying IRAD costs and estimated
               reimbursements is to provide clarification on the total estimated costs that
               will be incurred by the government beyond that identified in the X-33
               cooperative agreement, including potential reimbursement of industry
               IRAD costs. We also agree with NASA that inference should not be drawn
               that Lockheed Martin, or its partners, will recover most of their costs;
               actual reimbursement will be subject to an audit or review to ascertain the
               portion of the contribution allocable to government contracts. We have
               modified the text to reflect the need for such an audit.

               3. We agree that NASA has historically excluded personnel costs from its
               research and development program budgets. Our purpose is to report as
               completely as possible the government’s total costs for the X-33 Program.
               Thus, costs for NASA’s personnel working on the X-33 Program are
               included in our report.

               4. We revised the text to include the points raised in NASA’s comments.

               5. We believe the report accurately presents the history and status of these
               X-33 program performance objectives. In discussing the impact of technical
               problems on the X-33 Program performance objectives, our report
               identifies both the allowable change to an aluminum liquid oxygen tank and
               the reduction in flight speed. Our report is consistent with NASA’s position.
               We clearly state that the X-33 Program may demonstrate the technical,
               operations, and business feasibility of a SSTO RLV, but at a lower speed. In
               addition, we provide similar information with regards to the breaking up of
               the flight program and associated payment conditions.




               Page 33                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
                  Appendix I
                  Comments From the National Aeronautics
                  and Space Administration




                  6. As noted in our report, NASA currently plans to make five shuttle flights
                  per year to the station, and each shuttle flight can carry 34,200 pounds of
                  payload (supplies and personnel) to the space station. Our report also
                  notes that Venture Star RLVs will be able to carry an estimated 25,800
                  pounds of payload to the space station, must carry supplies and passengers
                  on separate flights while shuttles can carry both on a single flight, and will
                  have fewer on-orbit operational capabilities than the shuttle. NASA
                  officials estimate that between two and three Venture Star flights will be
                  required to replace each shuttle flight. Further, NASA’s space station
                  planning document, titled Requirements Data Set for ISS (International
                  Space Station) Crew and Cargo Carriers for Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV)
                  Phase A Study (December 16, 1998) identifies RLV impacts on science
                  operations as a potential concern. We, therefore, believe that the
                  additional 5 to 10 annual Venture Star docking operations could potentially
                  impact science operations now scheduled to occur during quiet periods
                  between five annual shuttle docking operations. We believe the potential
                  for disruptions will be determined, in part, by the number and scheduling of
                  resupply flights. Given those uncertainties at this time, we continue to
                  believe that science operations may be affected. We changed the text to
                  reflect the potential net effect—that the amount of stable time available for
                  conducting scientific operations may be reduced.

                  7. We revised the text to incorporate these comments as appropriate.




(707362)   Letr   Page 34                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-176 Space Transportation
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