NASA shutting down $2B satellite refueling project over tech, cost challenges

NASA is shutting down a $2 billion satellite refueling project over cost and tech challenges that have plagued the program. 

The space agency announced the shutdown of the On-orbit Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing 1 (OSAM-1) project on Friday after an “in-depth, independent” review.

The discontinuation of the project happened due to “continued technical, cost, and schedule challenges, and a broader community evolution away from refueling unprepared spacecraft, which has led to a lack of a committed partner,” according to NASA’s statement in the news release. 

For the OSAM-1 project that started in 2015, NASA contracted Maxar along with working with NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland which led the way. 

OSAM-1 was being developed to help refuel spacecraft, but the program has had many bumps in the road and the cost for NASA skyrocketed. 

NASA’s Inspector General report from October found that the schedule delays and soaring costs for NASA intensified because of “poor contractor performance and continued technical challenges.” 

The report found that the agency would blow through its $2 billion price tag and the launch date scheduled for December 2026. 

“Development of the servicing payload—the system responsible for rendezvous and refueling Landsat 7—has continued to cost more and take longer than anticipated,” NASA’s report said. “Moreover, much of the project’s cost growth and schedule delays can be traced to Maxar’s poor performance on the spacecraft bus and SPIDER contracts with each deliverable approximately 2 years behind schedule.” 

NASA said their leadership is “reviewing how to mitigate the impact of the cancellation on the workforce” at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

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