Bad Metal is to Blame for Failed NASA Missions


When a business is duped by the nefarious doings of a supplier, the impacts can range – usually from bad to worse.

But even within that context, this next case is pretty mind blowing. Bloomberg has reported that NASA is blaming bad metal for two failed satellite launch missions, as well as about $700 million in losses.

NASA is contending that Sapa Profiles Inc., a metals company in Oregon that now goes by the name of Hydro Extrusion North America, falsified thousands of test results relating to its metal’s strength and durability under pressure.

And the worst part? These incidents go back all the way to 1996.

This report comes on the heels of an announcement that Hydro Extrusion’s parent company will pay NASA $46 million to settle the criminal and civil claims relating to the fraud.

Unfortunately, the consequences will eclipse the payout significantly. NASA says its Taurus XL rocket used the bad metal. It was supposed to “deliver satellites studying the Earth’s climate” during two separate missions, but the structure carrying the satellite failed to fully open. Jim Norman, director for launch services at NASA in Washington, told Bloomberg that “years of scientific work were lost because of the fraud.”

The company has since been barred from contracting with the U.S. government, but the private sector ought to also be wary – Sapa’s nearly two-decades-long scheme has also reportedly ensnared hundreds of other customers.

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