Sale of faulty rocket parts to NASA was behind failure of two satellite launch missions

Faulty rocket parts were sold to US space agency NASA resulting in failure of two satellite launch missions and loss of over $700 million, besides the loss of years of lost work.

An investigation by the NASA concluded that its Taurus XL rocket was designated to deliver satellites studying the Earth’s climate during missions in 2009 and 2011 but its clamshell-like nose structure failed to open and plunged into the ocean on both occasions.

The cause of the failures left engineers baffled for almost two decades but Nasa released its most detailed account of the failures this week, blaming bad parts bought from an American metals supplier whose staff faked results about the equipment’s ability to cope in space.

Nasa said American metals manufacturer Sapa Profiles Inc falsified thousands of certifications for aluminium parts from 1996 to 2015 during which time they were supplied to hundreds of customers, including Nasa.

“When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail,” said Jim Norman, director for launch services at Nasa in Washington.

The company has conceded that staff faked tests results evaluating the metal’s durability and dependability under pressure.

Sapa’s parent company Norsk Hydro ASA last week agreed to pay $46 million to Nasa.

A Department of Justice spokesman said: “Corporate and personal greed perpetuated this fraud against the government and other private customers, and this resolution holds these companies accountable for the harm caused by their scheme”.