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The NASA Office of Inspector General completed an audit of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Cost Saving Initiatives. The overall objective was to determine whether the HST Program Office is reducing costs for science and satellite operations in line with anticipated budget reductions. The HST program budgeted about $187 million for contractor support of science and satellite operations for fiscal years (FY’s) 1998 and 1999 (see Appendix A). From FY’s 2000 through 2007, the HST program anticipates about a $134 million budget reduction.1 Accordingly, science and satellite operations costs must significantly decrease to absorb the reduction.

Specific audit objectives were to determine whether:

  • Actions have been initiated or planned to significantly reduce HST program costs by the year 2000.

  • Other organizations benefiting from the HST equitably share in the program cost.

  • Program planning for HST servicing missions scheduled for 1999 and 2002 considers the full NASA cost of operations and servicing as compared to replacement cost.2

To satisfy our objectives, we reviewed program plans and actions that have been implemented; interviewed management and HST program staff; analyzed planned contractor staff reductions; assessed pertinent documentation; and, performed specific assessments as detailed in the discussion below.

We performed fieldwork from August 1998 to January 1999. We performed the audit in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards.

1 The $134 million budget reduction results from (1) eliminating two servicing missions that will save $104 million and (2) implementing a new operating system, Vision 2000, that will save $30 million. From FY’s 2008 through 2010, the HST program plans a $19 million budget increase to retrieve the telescope from orbit. Therefore, the program plans a net reduction of $115 million ($134 million less $19 million).

2 When originally planned in 1979, the HST program called for return to Earth, refurbishment, and relaunch every 5 years, with on-orbit servicing every 2.5 years. Hardware lifetime and reliability requirements were based on that 2.5-year interval between servicing missions. In 1985, contamination and structural loading concerns associated with return to Earth aboard the Shuttle eliminated the concept of ground refurbishment from the program. NASA decided that on-orbit servicing might be adequate to maintain HST for its 15-year design life and adopted a 3-year cycle of on-orbit servicing.

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