In one of the first of the assessments of the pandemic’s impact on federal agency operations that looks ahead as well as behind, the inspector general at NASA has projected that many programs there will continue to be affected beyond this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in disruptions to staff availability, materials and supply chain, and program and project timetables that have delayed launch readiness dates and other operational activities. Although NASA managers include schedule margin in program and project plans to address unforeseen circumstances, in many instances the margins were not sufficient to absorb the impact of the pandemic,” it said.
It said that based on NASA’s standards, the pandemic affected 56 separate programs there, including 30 deemed major, including projects such as the International Space Station, the James Webb Space Telescope and the Mars Perseverance rover. Of those, “52 are expected to continue experiencing impacts in FY 2021, with 35 of those continuing into FY 2022 and beyond,” including for example research projects on the space station, it said.
In addition to cost impacts—which it roughly estimated at $3 billion—it said that launch dates for several missions have been delayed between 1 and 10 months, it said.