An investigation by the U.S. 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. This resulted in two failed satellite launch missions from 2009 and 2011.
Faulty Aluminum Materials Delivered to NASA for Nearly 20 Years
For the past 19 years, Sapa Profiles Inc. from Oregon has been delivering aluminum parts to hundreds of customers, including the U.S. space agency. Sapa Profiles falsified thousands of certifications for their materials.
NASA used the parts to create a rocket that was going to deliver satellites, which would study our planet’s climate in 2009 and 2011 missions. The rocket called Taurus XL had issues with the fairing, and according to NASA, it didn’t fully open, so the missions failed, explained Jim Norman, director for launch services at NASA in Washington:
“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. When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail.”
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.”
The news about the faked results comes just a week after the current parent company of Sapa – Norsk Hydro ASA, agreed to resolve the criminal charges and civil claims connected to the fraud. They would pay NASA, the Department of Defense and others $46 million for the fraud that took place starting with 1996 and ending in 2015.
According to Sapa Profiles, which are now named Hydro Extrusion Portland Inc., the employees faked the results that would show the metal’s strength and reliability under pressure. The company pleaded guilty on one count of mail fraud and can no longer do business with the U.S. federal government since September 20, 2015.
In a statement from last week, a spokesman for Norsk Hydro said that the company has invested “significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organizations.”
As our second lead editor, Anna C. Mackinno provides guidance on the stories Great Lakes Ledger reporters cover. She has been instrumental in making sure the content on the site is clear and accurate for our readers. If you see a particularly clever title, you can likely thank Anna. Anna received a BA and and MA from Fordham University.