NASA Has To Deal With Crummy Contractors, Just Like The Rest Of Us

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Don't you just hate it when some contractor tries to pass off some shitty work on you? When he covers it up and crosses his fingers that you'll never discover it?

NASA does.

And so does the Department of Justice. They announced this morning the indictment of Richard Harmon of Alvin, accused of selling crap to NASA for use on the space shuttle Endeavour.

Harmon was a subcontractor for a company called Spacehab.

Here's what the local US Attorney's office says (just focus and push hard to get past the gobstopping collection of words describing the relevant piece of equipment):

The part was designed to secure cargo to the payload bay of the Endeavour during a flight to the International Space Station in March 2008. According to the indictment, the part, called a passive flight releasable attachment mechanism interface plate, was damaged during the manufacturing process. Harmon is alleged to have covered up the damage by causing it to be welded without informing Spacehab. Harmon is accused of delivering the part to Spacehab without disclosing the damage and falsely certifying the materials and processes used in machining the part complied with the requirements of applicable drawings.

The damage, and the jury-rigging solution to welding it, had reduced the strength of part by 40 percent.

"Had NASA not discovered the damage and used the damaged part as planned, it could have cracked open during flight, allowed cargo to come loose and, possibly, resulted in the loss of the spacecraft and personnel aboard," the US Attorney's office said.

A routine inspection caught the flaw. We're guessing that just prior to it, the conversation went something like this:

"Yeah, the ol' passive flight releasable attachment mechanism interface plate? Good to go. No need to look too closely at it. If ever there was a terrific passive flight releasable attachment mechanism interface plate, this is it. Can I get paid now?"

Harmon faces 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

-- Richard Connelly

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