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Bogus Spacecraft Parts Pester NASA

NASA to Launch Planet-Hunting Kepler Spacecraft Tonight
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. (Image credit: NASA/Jack Pfaller)

WASHINGTON - NASA officialsare dealing with a growing problem of unknowingly buying improperly certifiedor outright bogus spacecraft parts, the agency's chief said Thursday.

A recent case involvedtitanium for the Kepler spacecraft, setto launch tonight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The titanium hadbeen falsely certified by a supplier as having met government standards, NASAspokesman J.D. Harrington said.

"The piece we werespecifically concerned with was Kepler's spider hub assembly," Harringtonsaid. "If defective, the mission would be a total loss. After severalweeks of material analysis, we found the titanium to be well within the requiredperformance parameters."

NASA's actingadministrator, ChristopherScolese, told the House Science and Technology Subcommittee on Space andAeronautics that the issue of falsely certified parts is "becoming abigger problem for us."

"We find out about itwhile sitting atop a rocket, or worse, find out about it in space,"Scolese said.

NASA learned about thetitanium problem in December.

Harrington said officialsalso reviewed the titanium used on the Delta 2 rocket thatwill carry Kepler. That issue was cleared.

Scolese said fraudulentlytested parts is a growing problem for the entire industry.

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