NASA's inspector general is investigating Boeing, one of the two companies supplying commercial crew vehicles for astronaut flights to the International Space Station, in relation to a recent contract competition to land astronauts on the moon, according to a Washington Post report (opens in new tab).
According to the June 20 report, a senior official at NASA spoke with a senior Boeing executive about the company's bid for a commercial moon lander contract, and Boeing subsequently attempted to change its proposal after the deadline for submission had passed.
Concerned officials within NASA referred the situation to the agency's inspector general office. NASA leadership ultimately asked Doug Loverro to resign from his position as associate administrator of NASA's human spaceflight directorate in conjunction with the matter, the report adds.
Loverro spoke with Space.com following his resignation. "The biggest false rumor, the one that I was most concerned about and I think the agency was most concerned about … was that there was a problem with the commercial crew launch coming up next week that I resigned over, and nothing could be further from the truth," he said. At the time, rumors were online saying that Loverro had a problem with the lunar lander contract, but Loverro declined to comment on that issue.
Space.com also asked if the resignation was related to an inspector general investigation into NASA's acquisition strategy for the Artemis program, which was opened on March 25.
"That IG report is an acquisition-related report that was started by the IG just the way they start other things, they select certain things to look into and to see how the agency is doing," Loverro said. "It's so completely different. It happens to be contemporaneous, but it's completely different than anything that would happen that affected this."
Boeing did not win the lunar lander contract and the matter is still under investigation, the Post reported.
NASA ultimately chose SpaceX, Dynetics and a Blue Origin-led team in April to develop landers for the agency's moon program, called Artemis. If all goes to plan with Artemis, the program's first human landing, the first since NASA's Apollo program last landed a human on the moon in 1972, will be in 2024. The company that will undertake that first mission has yet to be selected.
Typically, an inspector general's investigation takes at least months to complete, and then findings from the investigation could either be sent to NASA leadership for next steps or to the Justice Department if punitive action needs to be taken, the Post says.
The inspector general, Loverro and Boeing declined to comment for the Post report and none of the allegations have been proven by the inspector general or in court.
This news comes as Boeing tries to launch its first commercial crew vehicle for NASA. In December 2019, a key uncrewed test failed and delayed Boeing's plans to send astronauts to the space station. Boeing and SpaceX received contracts valued at nearly $7 billion collectively for the final phase of the commercial crew program in 2014. SpaceX successfully launched its first crewed flight, Demo-2, last month; the two astronauts on that mission remain in orbit.
- Boeing defends Starliner ground tests after problematic debut flight
- New Boeing video shows Snoopy's ride on Starliner Orbital Flight Test
- 'I can't wait to try it out': Starliner's 1st riders welcome capsule back to Earth
For a limited time, you can take out a digital subscription to any of our best-selling science magazines for just $2.38 per month, or 45% off the standard price for the first three months.