Contractors Reportedly Paid Millions in Bonuses Despite SLS Delays

SLS contractor paid millions in bonuses despite delays.

The Space Launch System liquid hydrogen tank structural test article is loaded into Test Stand 4693 at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, on January 14, 2019 | Image credit: NASA/Tyler Martin

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has revealed that NASA paid millions in bonuses to Boeing and Lockheed Martin despite the delays and cost overruns for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft.

The June 19 report, revealed that between 2014 and 2018 NASA had paid over $200 million in “award fees” to Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The amount accounts for 81% and 93% respectively of the total amount allocated for each contractor’s bonuses throughout the entire program. This despite the fact that the development of all contracted assets is likely to still take several years.

A sternly worded eight-page response from NASA’s Bill Gerstenmaier was included in the GAO report in with he takes exception to its finding while seemingly not disagreeing with them. “The GAO report does not acknowledge NASA is constructing some of the most sophisticated hardware ever built,” wrote Gerstenmaier. He added that the agency “does take exception to the unnecessarily negative language used in the report title and section headings and the lack of acknowledgement of progress the Agency has made.”

Despite the “progress” made, the report confirms that the currently projected June 2020 launch date for the maiden flight of the SLS rocket is unlikely. This projection was all but confirmed by NASA at an Advisory Council committee on May 28. Bill Hill, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development at NASA stated that to accomplish a 2020 launch date, “everything has to go perfectly.”

The GAO report concluded with four recommendations including that NASA “should reevaluate their strategy for incentivizing contractors.”

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.