Company faked NASA tests and ruined missions worth $700m

A company which manufactured aluminium components for NASA faked test results over 19 years, leading to the destruction of two space missions worth $700m (£536m).

A NASA investigation into the root cause for two failed launches in 2009 and 2011 discovered that materials produced by Sapa Profiles Inc (SPI) were faulty.

SPI was found to have falsified thousands of certifications for aluminium extrusions for hundreds of customers in a 19-year scheme.

The company is a unit of Norsk Hydro, one of the world’s largest suppliers of aluminium. Norsk agreed to pay $46m back to NASA for the failures, less than 7% of the damage it caused.

The two launches, one of NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) and another for a satellite called Glory which would have observed aerosol pollution, failed within three years of each other.

According to the space agency, the investigations into these failures found that “the launch vehicle fairing – a clamshell structure that encapsulates the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere – failed to separate on command”.

Norwegian aluminium group Norsk Hydro new logo can be seen at their headquarters at Lysaker outside of Oslo, Norway on October 3, 2018. - Norsk Hydro said it will suspend production at the world's largest alumina plant in Brazil as it had not received authorisation to use a new waste deposit area. (Photo by Fredrik HAGEN / NTB Scanpix / AFP) / Norway OUT (Photo credit should read FREDRIK HAGEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Image: SPI was a unit of aluminium giant Norsk Hydro

Alongside officials from the Department of Justice, NASA discovered that SPI “altered test results and provided false certifications” to the rocket manufacturer for both of these missions.

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“NASA relies on the integrity of our industry throughout the supply chain. While we do perform our own testing, NASA is not able to retest every single component.

“That is why we require and pay for certain components to be tested and certified by the supplier,” said Jim Norman, NASA’s director for launch services.

“When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail.

“In our case, the Taurus XLs that failed for the OCO and Glory missions resulted in the loss of more than $700m, and years of people’s scientific work.

“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.”

Source: SKY NEWS

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