NASA And DOJ Investigation Reveals Why Two Taurus Rockets Failed

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In 2009 a Taurus XL rocket failed because the fairing at the top refused to separate, then in 2011 the same things happened again. A multi year investigation traced the problem to materials from a supplier which had been fabricating test results.

Full text of the NASA report

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  1. captidgas

    i work for a aluminum supplier in aerospace and the company always tells us to never take shortcuts and tells us one screw up could be an extinction level event for our company

  2. bombud1

    Gump: Manley always seemed to find a way to explain things so i could understand theuum..

  3. Ruben Kelevra

    Wow this sounds like a crime novel. Well delivered.

  4. MrVipitis

    All the missions that live three or fore times the planned live must take up a good chunk of operations cost for the agency.

  5. Andrey Kuznetsov

    Thank you for bring space news into such an informative, concise, revealing form factor. I’ve read the news about this, but listening to you, the additional research you’ve gathered and tied together with past, present and future really makes this channel a top notch space information center.

  6. kickthedonky

    Rocket Lab launch tomorrow… going to finally do an update on them?

  7. NegatorUK

    So, no more purchases from that vendor right ? right ??? hello ???

  8. Curtis Densmore

    I was hoping for more juicy criminal details.

  9. Anders Andrea

    We need a video about explosive bolts and joints, also how stage separation works. What Kerbal Space Program doesn’t teach you, perhaps?

  10. icedeamon

    Hey just dropping by for an apology and a subscription. In the past I’ve been indoctrinated in the star citizen cult. The sunken cost fallacy and emotional investment in that alleged game made me toxic towards anyone even remotely critical of it. I apologize. I’ve been recovering from it for over a year now. Keep up the good work, great content!

  11. Jeffrey Bue

    Another great vid Scott. I’ve worked most of my career as a Materials Engineer (composites guy – not metals) for a major aerospace company and really appreciate the work you put into researching these topics. I think people get the impression that fraud like this is pervasive in the industry but I don’t believe that’s the case – at least from my experience. That being said I seem to remember my metal-brethren talking about this issue several years ago. I also seem to remember hearing the words “jail time” being mentioned a lot. Fly safe brother.

  12. F.D. English

    You said “criminal” , anybody in trouble yet?

  13. lyianx

    And here we have an example why its not always best, (or cheapest) to go with the absolute lowest bidder.

  14. Dave Herbert

    Scott love your stuff. I have just watched a video about the ARCA water electric propelled rocket. Is this a viable project. My maths/engineering is not that hot

  15. himssendol

    Explosive bolts sounds like it’ll make a lot of tiny space junk. Do those deorbit quickly?

  16. Arioch IV

    What? They found a use for the ISS? :D

  17. Maeyanie

    Glad there’s criminal charges involved. In the news thing I read, they just mentioned the company being barred from any further government contracts, which seemed like an awfully mild penalty for such a deliberate act.

  18. Carl Malone

    Ain’t capatilists wonderful ???

  19. Gitarzan 66

    Thats fascinating. I had no idea that’s how these fairings opened up.(noob)

  20. nmnmnm


  21. wbbh

    Great analysis. Too often buyers do not want to place an inspector in a contractor’s shop to validate testing.

  22. RocKiteman _ 2001

    Well there’s the problem! They needed *_aluminium_** fairings,* but the contractor supplied *_aluminum_** fairings.*

  23. Sebastian Jasper

    Greetings Scott, interestingly it makes a lot of sense to me, what you explaned about the oddity (not breaking even though it’s weaker). I just experienced it the other day: I was cutting many peaces of slightly rusted iron wire, and realised, that it’s Much easier to cut, where there is no rust on the wire, than where it was rusty.
    And I came to the same conclusion, that when it’s corroded, than the iron is structuraly weaker, – but exactly because of that, you have to cut all the way through, while when it’s more rigid, you just have to initiate the cut, – and it breaks apart.

  24. Felix Shih

    FORMOSAT-2 (launched 2004, decommissioned in August 2016) is only lucky client drawn the Taurus XL lottery.

  25. bigjohn697791

    I used a fair bit of Det cord in my British Army career

  26. Moist-Mike

    15 test engineers from Orbital Sciences Corp. hated this video.

  27. TheNodrokov

    Hey man, I just wanted to say that I’ve been going through a kinda tough time recently, and I really appreciate your videos. Your voice is really soothing and I always feel like I come away from your videos having learned something interesting.

  28. tehllama42

    It wasn’t just falsified test documents- it’s hand overwritten document falsification to deliberately push improper source materials. I originally thought that should have come out through non-destructive testing, but that sort of thing would only come out of full on destructive testing – it’ll pass every NDT I can think of, but fail in booster use.

  29. fotmheki

    Very informative as always. Thank you Scott!

  30. Brian Arbenz

    “Al Loo MINI Um.” Love it!

  31. riley mcpherson

    Aluminium? There’s your problem! Should’ve used aluminum 😂😂

  32. dbreardon

    Not sure why it was never, ever mentioned in the entire video….much like news for some reason never mentions the name of the offending business when there are problems.
    The parts were produced by Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI) in its Technical Dynamics Aluminum (TDA) plant, in Portland Oregon. There ought to be a 5 year moratorium on any government contracts made with this company including as a subcontractor. And they ought to be fined for the full complete amount of the total mission costs.

  33. MrForthcoming

    Just have to say I really enjoy your video’s.

  34. Paolo Pomes

    Totally love the way you explain things!

  35. Colin Campbell

    This is why a certain percentage of materials with ‘Certificates Of Conformance’ are pulled out and sent to a materials testing lab that’s contracted with your company. Way too much counterfeit “aerospace grade” materials being sold as genuine items.
    A certificate of conformance is only as good as the paper it’s printed on if you haven’t independently verified that the material really is in conformance.

  36. Jeff H.

    I spent 6 years of my life as the NASA Instrument Manager for the Aerosol Polarimetry Sensor (APS) – the main flight science instrument on the Glory Observatory. So much effort and the loss of useful science to simple greed.

  37. joshua43214

    This begs the question:
    Who else are they contracting for?..

  38. Ghrey

    Reminds me of a shipment of bearings that were not exactly perfect. Good video! Thanks.

  39. SimplePhil

    Subtitles at the intro “Olo it’s got manley here…”

  40. lolocfmjpwp0kjcxsa

    I wonder if the Zuma satellite used this bofo aluminium…

  41. piranha031091

    Sounds a lot like the recent Kobe Steel scandal…
    (And they faked data on aluminium alloys too!)

  42. Luke Gonzalez

    When you check yo’ staging but the kraken still attacks

  43. Mike Baker

    Hi Scott,
    When I read things like this I wonder how many other undiscovered failures , delays and unnecessary changes to otherwise successful design paths have happened? That might have meant we as a space fairing race by now, would have had a permanent base on the moon and already be well on the way to regular Mars expeditions, all this progress lost, to basically nothing more than greed and the desperate need of some people to acquire more and more wealth, usually more than could be spent in one lifetime.
    I also saw your video on the rocket fuel book “Ignition” bit confused about the “Devils Venom” reference as the history conflicts with my personal knowledge of its use? Would you like to chat about some corrections on a private email channel? I have a lot of experience of parts per million chemical paper chromatography fuel leak detection systems?

  44. Motzer Alles Mist

    that looks all crap to me.
    There is a big field for development and innovation.

  45. Leon Eriksen

    Please do a video on the recent ARCA LAS, Electric Rocket System!

  46. Corrupt video and more欣然

    can u rebuild glory spacecraft? and launcher had switch to antares rocket

  47. Dimitar Haralampiev

    Always well researched! Thanks for the top notch videos!

  48. Robin Jacobs

    Military had same problem in the 1950’s. They had to weed out the crooks and thiefs!

  49. Andrew S

    The technical drawing of the explosive “zipper” is nerdtastic. Love this kind of video Scott!

  50. Ellert van Koperen

    When the best image you can find is from a patent… 😊

  51. Sean McDonough

    A “frangible joint” sounds like something a stoner would have use for if the police came knocking…

  52. Vladimir Lenin

    Day 3 of asking Scott to do a video on low-energy transfers

  53. J. Michael Antoniewicz II

    Next up, two things:
    First, a WHOLE slew of court cases including the US DoJ going after the company, the people responsible, and whomever bought them out (yes, they bought the hanging charges {iirc, the company *admitted* to falsifying some records a few years ago} along with the company and its tech), Northrop Grumman going after them also since they can show now that Orbital was materially harmed and a whole line of their products were tainted, various such etc, and also asking for cost plus 3x for punitive damages.
    Second, *EVERYONE* that bought from that company is going to making a second and more look at their records and sueing for any perceived failures of the materials they bought was part of.

  54. Vilhelmo De Okcidento

    Someone’s actually going to jail for committing fraud.
    Too bad the fraudsters of the Financial Crisis haven’t been charged.

  55. John North

    Whilst technology continues to advance the integrity of the supply chain is being eroded by corrupt practices. This affects virtually every industry. Heads on poles needed.

  56. Gene Cash

    Dangnabbit, Scott! When are you going to fix the kerning in your title card? That “L” standing all by its lonesome just triggers my OCD…

  57. h0ll0wm9n

    The culprit:
    sapa profiles inc., portland, oregon, usa

  58. Nicholas Howatson

    C’mon, Its not that complicated to get it to work. I mean Its only rocket science. Its nothing special. ;)

  59. Leif Vejby

    A funny thing is that I was employed constructing doors and windows from SAPA extrusions. and believed that they were the best!
    Not any more!!!

  60. Starcruiser81

    Had to scroll through comments looking for jokers saying things like “time to roll myself a frangible joint” but I was heavily disappointed to find no such comments. +1 for me doing it first, I guess. ;)

  61. Little Cripple

    After nearly a decade? ¡Wow! NASA works so fast!

  62. Justin Time

    As someone who works in the aerospace industry in the supply chain for most of these launch companies falsifying material certifications is a huge deal. We’ve dealt with this kind of thing before and on one occasion had to recall thousands of products once we found out. Some of which were already installed on various vehicles.

  63. Laélien Rivière

    2.7k likes, 3 dislikes. I think that says it all
    Thanks Scott, for the everlasting quality. <3

  64. ET

    Scott please take a look at ARCAs new steam powered booster!

  65. master shooter64

    jeb:how hard can rocket science be anway?

  66. Sasquatch 2001

    the new carbon observatory is supposedly able to detect individual sources of emission! I probably learned that from Scotty…

  67. c182SkylaneRG

    Hey Scott! What was that graphic at 6:50? Where can we look that up? And can you do a video (or link a video) detailing more about that? That looked really interesting. Thanks!!

  68. Donton Kerman

    Scott can you talk about JP aerospace’s airship based proposals for a launcher. Seems wacky but possibly feasible.

  69. Sean McDonough

    Why didn’t Orbital do their own tests on randomly-selected examples of the third-party components to make sure that they were, in fact, adhering to the specifications?
    EDIT: Why didn’t they test the components _beforehand,_ I mean.

  70. cratersofthemoon

    Another great, well research presentation!! Thanks Scott ! Ken

  71. The EpicSlayer7 SSS

    i have a story related to Aluminium that i definitely do not boast about but…
    while i was smoking daily for 10 years, i had a home made pipe and i was using an Aluminium pan that i cut a circle out of to make the screen that holds the product (weed… like i said not boasting about this but i am boasting about having quit since 2016!) and that screen had to be changed about each month due to it “hardening” from being burnt with “Carbon”… so i was basically making Aluminium steel! so yeah, Aluminium is very ductile but if you subject it to heat with carbon on it, it loses it’s ductile properties and becomes “extremely brittle”!
    so end story is even if you can make “Aluminium Steel” it is not strong at all tho it takes about 10 times the force to bend, it breaks and flakes easily. also it made me realize that you probably can add carbon in a ton of other metals but if they do “not” do that, it must be because it does not enhance it as much as Iron (Steel).
    so a Copper or Aluminium or Nickel Based Steel is not sold in H-Beams for a reason.
    (also it might be something else than carbon that made the Aluminium become like that but from what i observed and the little i know, that is what i “think” happened. high heat in contact to a source of carbon. it being absorbed like when you quench hot iron in oil and it absorbs carbon becoming steel.)

  72. CartoonrBOY

    This mirrors the Volkswagen scandal, but with fireworks. It’s a shame that companies assume they’ll get away with it which leads me to wonder, how common it may be?

  73. William Swenson

    Great evidence gathering with a most articulate exposition. You’d make a fine prosecutor, Scott.

  74. DTHRocket

    Welp, they’re not getting their AS9100 certification back anytime soon….

  75. Dangermouse

    Hey Scott, thanks for sharing. I work in underground mining and we are around Det Cord every day. Space is the last place I would have expected it to be.
    I’m continually surprised by what rocket engineers come up with. 😁👍

  76. Alan Hartley

    Rocket science is easy, it’s rocket engineering that’s hard.

  77. Benito Llan Matos

    TL;DR the company that made the fairings lied about their test results so the fairings were faulty and didn’t separate when they should have. Shame.

  78. FAB Group LLC

    I hope it doesn’t take NASA 10 years to find out what happened to the SpaceX crew capsule!

  79. Nicholas Howatson

    Why hasn’t Michael Bay done a rocket movie? With all of these explosives and controlling explosions you would think he would be all over the idea. Weird.

  80. EpochRazael

    A singular example of a company disgracing the essence of rocket science and getting slapped in the face for it.
    This makes me happy :D

  81. Axonteer

    I find it very interesting to think about that something we might think of simple (ditch the fairing) is for a engineer a task that can keep him ocupied for months if not years to just get a concept out how to do that… and then testing…

  82. Mr. World

    Moral of the story. never take a shortcut, both in business & life in general.

  83. Ronald McPaul

    Nice supplier audit job, aerospace industry.

  84. Ravindra Nagrecha

    This channel should have reached 2M subscribers by now!

  85. X Y

    I think it would be very helpful if you could add a visual indication pointing to the components you are referring to(e.g. an arrow). Otherwise it’s something hard to understand which part you are talking about.

  86. zztop3000

    They cause 2 billion dollars in damages. Damn.
    In 2009, NASA attempted to launch a weather satellite into space. Unfortunately, the rocket’s fairing failed to open and the launch failed. Now, a decade later, we finally know why: NASA says that its contractor for the fairing, Sapa Profiles, committed extensive metals fraud.
    Sapa Profiles was contracted to manufacture parts for the fairings on two NASA satellite launches—the one in 2009 and another failed launch in 2011. These parts needed to be made of a highly specific aluminum alloy that met rigorous standards for strength and durability, and according to a recent court plea, the company did not do that. Instead, employees at the company faked test results and lied to NASA and other clients.
    The end result is that hundreds of parts sent to customers were defective, causing untold billions in damage. The cost of the two failed NASA launches alone was approximately $700 million, and other defrauded clients included the Department of Defense and hundreds of commercial clients.
    In addition to the financial damages, the alleged fraud also cost NASA years of scientific experiments with their weather satellites and led to the discontinuation of the Taurus XL rocket used for the launches.
    Currently, Sapa Profiles has admitted to the fraud in general—over a time period ranging from 1996 to 2015—but denies specifically that this fraud led to the failure of the two rocket launches. But it would be tough to believe that the poor-quality parts manufactured by the company have nothing to do with two consecutive rocket failures.

  87. rpbsjy

    The second version of the OCO satellite was called OCO2. Those NASA guys crack me up!

  88. BSJinx

    Taurus rockets? Sounds like a bunch of bull.
    Thank you, I’ll be here all month.

  89. Rich

    Contractors will defraud the taxpayers. Research the bad bolts back in eighties, they had to reassemble the shuttles.

  90. zapfanzapfan

    I’m a bit relieved it was “just” old fashioned greed and not sabotage.

  91. RWBimbie

    Should have had some Russians drill some holes in the hull.. to help it break

  92. Prakash Kamath

    Excellent information.
    Awesome homework done. Hats off

  93. RedPuma90

    TL;DR: A company faked their test results and delivered aluminium that wasn’t brittle enough so that the seam between the two fairing halves would bend or bulge instead of break when the explosives inside the seam fired.

  94. H A Whyte

    Imagine if this was used on a manned craft. This is beyond disgraceful.

  95. mattcolver1

    Frangible joints are tricky. The material properties are so important. The material has to have the right elongation properties. 
    I was on a team that was developing frangible joints once. I remember the first ring we tried was machined from a forging and the ring just shattered into a million pieces. We got the right elongation by stretch forming bar, welding it into an 8 ft dia. ring then machining it. Then the rings split perfectly at the weak point.

  96. Joe Meredith

    Was expecting the Law & Order jingle after ‘involves criminal charges’.

  97. Vilhelmo De Okcidento

    This is NOT an example of “space is hard”!
    This is an example of FRAUD and why frauds must always be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
    Fraud destroys trust and without trust markets cease to function.

  98. Jerry Rupprecht

    When you only release the reports a decade later hoping everyone forgot about the faliure but then Scott Manley releases a video about it

  99. foobar201

    It’s been said that in aerospace the weight of the paperwork must exceed the weight of the aircraft to reach certification. This kind of thing is why. With enough investigation, the culprit can always be found.

  100. J D

    NASA: “They didn’t fly safe.”

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