NASA inspector general looking into Boeing moon lander bid after input from agency official: report

A visualization of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft.
A visualization of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. (Image credit: Boeing)

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.

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.  

Related: Boeing's 1st Starliner flight test in photos

Loverro spoke with 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. 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. 

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: