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Rising cost of Nasa rocket a threat to Trump's moon mission

Washington, DC

THE rocket Nasa plans to use to get astronauts to the moon by 2024 has for years suffered significant cost overruns and schedule delays. But those problems are even worse than originally thought, according to a federal watchdog report expected to be released Wednesday.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post, said the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had masked the true price tag of the program by shifting some costs to future missions without accounting for them.

It accused the space agency of "a lack of transparency... especially for its human spaceflight programme" and said Nasa misrepresentations made it hard to determine the true cost of the programme.

It said the cost of the rocket, known as the Space Launch System, had grown by nearly 30 per cent or nearly US$2 billion and that the first launch of the rocket, initially expected in late 2017, might not happen until June 2021.

Still, Nasa has continued to pay tens of millions of dollars in "award fees" to Boeing, the SLS's primary contractor, for scoring high on performance evaluations.

After issuing one award fee to Boeing, a Nasa official even "noted that the significant schedule delays on this contract have caused Nasa to restructure the flight manifest for SLS," the report said. WP