NASA’s SLS Rocket Is $6 Billion Over Budget, 6 Years Behind Schedule

A NASA rocket designed to transport astronauts to the moon is reportedly six billion dollars over budget and six years behind schedule, according to a recent audit.

The Inspector General of NASA previously initiated an audit into the project responsible for creating the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, and the findings have painted a bleak picture of the project’s current state.

In the audit report, the Inspector General warned of the potential future cost and schedule increases on the SLS rocket project that could potentially jeopardize the success of the entire Artemis mission.

“NASA’s spending on the Artemis Moon Program is expected to reach $93 billion by 2025, including $23.8 billion already spent on the SLS system through 2022. That sum represents ‘$6 billion in cost increases and over six years in schedule delays above NASA’s original projections,’” the report stated, according to Engadget.

The rocket, which made its first launch in November 2022, uses four RS-25 engines per launch — 16 of which were salvaged from decommissioned Space Shuttles.

While recycling these materials was supposed to save the project some money, the audit has highlighted how attempting to integrate new and legacy systems has been much more difficult than anticipated.

“These increases are caused by interrelated issues such as assumptions that the use of heritage technologies from the Space Shuttle and Constellation Programs were expected to result in significant cost and schedule savings compared to developing new systems for the SLS,” the audit report stated. “However, the complexity of developing, updating, and integrating new systems along with heritage components proved to be much greater than anticipated.”

In the audit, the Inspector General also expressed concern over the use of “cost-plus” contracts that give suppliers the ability to easily inflate their budgets. To fix this issue, the audit report suggests that future projects be required to use fixed-price contracts to keep budgets from skyrocketing.

NASA management has accepted all of the eight recommendations made by the audit report. The future of the Artemis moon mission now rests on the agency’s ability to successfully implement these suggestions.