In 2009 and 2011, two Taurus XL missions failed after the rocket's fairing did not successfully separate on command.
The bad aluminum caused a key part of the rocket to fail and doomed the missions. In a public summary updated yesterday, LSP investigators detailed the discovery of "a 19-year scheme that included falsifying thousands of certifications for aluminum extrusions to hundreds of customers". The manufacturer of the Taurus-XL rocket, Orbital Sciences Corporation, had been supplied extruded aluminium for this crucial part by SPI - which, as we now know, had forged the certification. The root cause was determined to be faulty material provided by aluminum manufacturer Sapa Profiels Inc. The launch vehicle's fairing, a clamshell assembly that transmits the satellite because it travels through the atmosphere, did not absolutely open, inflicting the unsuccessful launch, in step with an announcement from independent agency.More news: Microsoft rolls out new cloud services for AI and blockchain
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".
According to the Justice Department, "SPI disputes NASA's positions, and except for those facts admitted to in the DPA (deferred prosecution agreement) and the plea agreement, the claims resolved by the civil settlement are allegations only". The company pleaded guilty on one count of mail fraud and can no longer do business with the US federal government since September 20, 2015.
"For almost two decades, SPI and its employees covered up substandard manufacturing processes by brazenly falsifying test results", said U.S. Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger for the Eastern District of Virginia. So, they encouraged employees to do whatever needed to be done with production-based bonuses.More news: Ancient Asteroid Collisions Might Be The Source For Half Of Earth’s Water
NASA's Launch Services Program (LSP) isolated the malfunction to the aluminium joint materials that had failed to break as part of an investigation of the Taurus XL failures.
SPI, a Norwegian company, has been fined $US46 million ($AU 65 million) after pleading guilty to the fraud charges. Equipment used by the U.S. military has also been created using the faulty SPI aluminium.More news: Passengers safe after Boeing 737 skids off runway into river in Jacksonville