Metals Fraud Leads to Failure of $700m NASA Satellite Launch

NASA Says Aluminum Fraud Caused $700 Million Satellite Failures

NASA was sold faulty rocket parts for almost 20 years

An investigation by the USA space agency was recently made public, revealing that NASA lost over $700 million after a metals manufacturer faked test results, sending faulty materials to NASA.

The scheme involved falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum products to hundreds of customers, according to NASA and DOJ. They then would provide their false certifications to their clients - NASA included. The joints are supposed to fracture during the launch sequence so the full fairing can be jettisoned, which frees the payload to be deployed into orbit.

The aluminium manufacturer, now known as Hydro Extrusion Portland Inc.is now barred from contracting through U.S. federal government agencies. Assistant Attorney General Benczkowski of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division said corporate and personal greed perpetuated this fraud against government and other private customers. A frangible joint is a structural separation system that is initiated using ordnance.

Norman added that the fraud cost NASA not just money, but they also lost years of scientific work because of the faked testing results, explaining that the agency's trust was "severely violated". NASA says the company and other related business have been banned from government contracts.

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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.

"It is critical that we are able to trust our industry to produce, test and certify materials in accordance with the standards we require". This proposed resolution ensures that the victims of this conduct, including the USA military, can replace faulty product put into the supply chain and help recover the costs foisted on taxpayers to investigate this scheme. This suspension has been in effect since September 2015.

SPI agreed to pay $46 million to the U.S. government and other commercial customers for the 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers.

"NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain", said Jim Norman, NASA's director for Launch Services at NASA Headquarters in a statement. In the years since, the space agency's Launch Services Program and the rocket's manufacturer, Orbital Sciences-which has since been acquired by Northrop Grumman-have been conducting investigations into what happened.

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