A GAO report released yesterday raises some concerns about the development of the Ares 1. The report doesn’t focus on specific technical issues that have been rumored to exist with the Ares 1, but instead with more general concerns: “knowledge gaps” in various technical, managerial, and financial areas; a lack of stability in Ares 1 requirements because of shifts in Orion requirements, an “aggressive” schedule for the development of the J-2X engine that will power the Ares’ upper stage, and concerns about funding shortfalls for the overall Constellation program. On that last point, the report notes:
NASA’s approach to funding is risky, and the current approved budget profile is insufficient to meet Constellation’s estimated needs. The Constellation program’s integrated risk management system indicates there is a high risk that funding shortfalls could occur in fiscal years 2009 through 2012, resulting in planned work not being completed to support schedules and milestones.
The report was requested by the House Science and Technology Committee, which released a statement by committee chairman Bart Gordon in response to the report. “The Administration has undertaken a major new Exploration initiative on a ‘business as usual’ budget, and that’s going to make it difficult for NASA to succeed,” Gordon said in the statement. “The CEV and Ares I development projects will be important early tests of the Administration’s approach, and the Committee will be actively monitoring the status of those projects over the coming months.”