Workers attach the two-part payload fairing over the Kepler spacecraft in preparation for it March 6, 2009 launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The cover, designed to jettison shortly after launch, protects the spacecraft from the friction and turbulence as it speeds through the atmosphere during launch.
Credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller
WASHINGTON - NASA officials are dealing with a growing problem of unknowingly buying improperly certified or outright bogus spacecraft parts, the agency's chief said Thursday.
A recent case involved titanium for the Kepler spacecraft, set to launch tonight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The titanium had been falsely certified by a supplier as having met government standards, NASA spokesman J.D. Harrington said.
"The piece we were specifically concerned with was Kepler's spider hub assembly," Harrington said. "If defective, the mission would be a total loss. After several weeks of material analysis, we found the titanium to be well within the required performance parameters."
NASA's acting administrator, Christopher Scolese, told the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics that the issue of falsely certified parts is "becoming a bigger problem for us."
"We find out about it while sitting atop a rocket, or worse, find out about it in space," Scolese said.
NASA learned about the titanium problem in December.
Harrington said officials also reviewed the titanium used on the Delta 2 rocket that will carry Kepler. That issue was cleared.
Scolese said fraudulently tested parts is a growing problem for the entire industry.
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