NASA Contractor Faked Certifications of Aluminium Responsible for $700-million Satellite Failure

Even the U.S. government isn’t immune from purchasing sub-par materials from unethical contractors faking their product’s specifications.

NASA has lashed out at a metals contractor it utilised for the construction of a satellite, following an investigation that found the contractor had been falsifying results for nearly twenty years that ultimately caused catastrophic failures with two of its satellites.

According to a NASA statement obtained by Bloomberg’s David Stringer, “the bad parts were used in the making of Taurus XL, a rocket that was supposed to deliver satellites studying the Earth’s climate during missions carried out in 2009 and 2011. The launch vehicle’s fairing, a clamshell structure that carries the satellite as it travels through the atmosphere, didn’t fully open, causing the unsuccessful launch.”

Jim Norman, director for launch services at NASA told the press in Washington, “when testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail,” adding that NASA lost years of scientific work as a result of the contractor’s fraudulence.

The contractor in question, Sapa Profiles Inc, is based in Oregon, whose parent company Norsk Hydro ASA only last week paid $46 million to settle criminal and civil charges launched by the Department of Defense. Sapa Profiles, which has since changed its name to Hydro Extrusion Portland Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud, and will not be able to compete for further U.S. federal government contracts.

Assistant attorney general of the criminal division at the Department of Justice, Brian Benczkowski released a statement on the matter, outlining that “For nearly 20 years, Sapa Profiles falsified critical tests on the aluminium they sold - tests that their customers, including the US government, depended on to ensure the reliability of the aluminium they purchased.”

A spokesperson for Norsk Hydro confirmed that the case had been settled, and said that the company was now investing “significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organizations.”

Benczkowski concluded that “corporate and personal greed perpetuated this fraud against the government and other private customers, and this resolution holds these companies accountable for the harm caused by their scheme.”

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