NASA ALUMINIUM SUPPLIER INVESTIGATED FOR FRAUD

Documents released by the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) suggest fraud by an aluminium supplier, Sapa Profiles Inc (SPI), cost the agency over USD700 million. In a case that the US Department of Justice is investigating, Oregon-based SPI is accused of falsifying data about the parts’ suitability for use in space vehicles resulting in the loss of two Taurus rockets and the satellites they carried in 2009 and 2011. According to NASA, materials failings in the frangible joint rail, which is part of the structural system that allows for separation after take-off, meant neither rocket jettisoned its payload fairings at the critical moment, making them too heavy to reach orbit, leading them to crash into the Pacific ocean. As part of its investigation into the crashes, NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) performed material properties testing on remnants from the rockets’ production and “found the results did not match the certifications provided by SPI”. Moreover, NASA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) signalled indications that test results may have been altered.