WASHINGTON, D.C.--An independent report released here today by NASA's Advisory Council paints a sobering picture of the agency's space station program. After a major overhaul 5 years ago, the planned space station was to cost $17.4 billion and be ready by 2002. But the report warns of a $7 billion cost overrun and a 1- to 3-year delay in completing the project, which includes cooperation from Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada.
The task force, chaired by consultant Jay Chabrow, warns that the agency's annual $2.1 billion space station funding is inadequate, and likely will require an additional $130 million to $250 million annually. That would push the station's price tag to $24.7 billion--nearly one-third more than the original estimate.
While the report cites "reasonable progress" in work on U.S. space station elements, it also highlights a host of technical challenges--such as the complexity of assembling the station in orbit--that threaten to derail NASA's schedule. Those problems, it states, could delay completion to as late as 2006--more than 20 years after President Ronald Reagan first proposed the project in 1984. Russian delays in completing the service module--a key component containing command and control functions--likely will force NASA to postpone its first launches slated for this summer.
NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin told a Senate panel today that "I don't acknowledge or accept the $7 billion overrun" laid out in the Chabrow report. NASA, he added, will not have a formal response to the Chabrow study for 30 days. That irked members of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee charged with NASA oversight. "We're running out of patience," warned ranking minority member Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). "There's always one more promise."