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NASA Missions Failed Due to Faulty Parts Sold in Scam

Seems Sapa Profiles Inc. knowingly sold bad parts
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2019 6:31 PM CDT
In this 59-second time exposure photo released by Anthony Galvan III, the Taurus XL rocket carrying NASA's Glory satellite launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Goleta, Calif., early Friday, March...   (AP Photo/Anthony Galvan III)
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(Newser) – On the upside, no one got killed. The bad news: An Oregon metals manufacturer lied about test results and sold faulty aluminum parts to NASA and other customers for more than 19 years, according to the Justice Department and NASA. Seems workers at Sapa Profiles Inc—which is now called Hydro Extrusion Portland—altered test results so materials appeared ready for sale from 1996 to 2015. NASA says the aluminum scam caused two satellite missions to fail and cost them $700 million, a far cry from the $46 million that Sapa parent company Norsk Hydro ASA has agreed to pay the federal government and other customers, Bloomberg reports. Not to mention the years of scientific investigation lost due to fraud.

The space agency blames two failed launches on the faulty parts: the 2009 Orbiting Carbon Observatory and the 2011 Glory, which both sputtered when the Taurus XL rockets' protective nose cones didn't fully open, CNET reports. Sapa's apparent motive is no surprise: boosting corporate profits and hitting production-based bonuses. Now the manufacturer is excluded from federal contracting and has pleaded guilty to a count of mail fraud. Norsk Hydro says the case is settled, and the company has put in "significant time and resources to completely overhaul our quality and compliance organizations." But for NASA, hard truth prevails. "When testing results are altered and certifications are provided falsely, missions fail," says an agency official. (Read more fraud stories.)

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