NASA has finally been able to place its finger on the culprit behind the failed launch missions of 2009 and 2011. NASA’s Launch Service Program (LSP) has been seeking answers for almost a decade about why a pair of Taurus XL rockets failed in the years mentioned.
NASA revealed that the fairings did not part as designed as the materials used in those rockets by aluminum manufacturer Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI) were submitted with “altered test results and provided false certifications.”
On April 23, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski, said in a statement, “For nearly 20 years, Sapa Profiles and Sapa Extrusions [SPI’s corporate parent] falsified critical tests on the aluminum they sold — tests that their customers, including the U.S. government, depended on to ensure the reliability of the aluminum they purchased.”
In light of the findings behind the failure, though SPI has agreed to pay $46 million to NASA; it is deemed insufficient by Jim Norman, LSP Director as the damage caused by the manufacturer’s actions is far more magnanimous that the compensation offered.
Norman is quoted to say, “When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail. In our case, the Taurus XLs that failed for [the two satellite missions] resulted in the loss of more than $700 million, and years of people’s scientific work.”
He continued on to say, “It is critical that we are able to trust our industry to produce, test, and certify materials in accordance with the standards we require. In this case, our trust was severely violated.”