The Constellation Program, part of NASA’s plan to visit the moon again, includes a $350 million A-3
test stand at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, necessary to meet special testing requirements for
the rockets built for the mission. The stand, when it’s complete (ETA: September 2013), will likely not
be seeing the moon anytime soon: the Constellation Program was cancelled by President Obama in
2010. And though there is no guarantee that the multi-million-dollar equipment will ever be used, NASA
continues to maintain it, at a cost of $900,000 (taxpayer dollars) a year.
This facility is one of a legion of unused NASA facilities that continue to be maintained at a high price.
In fact, according to NASA Inspector General Paul K. Martin, an in-house study conducted in 2012
estimated NASA has up to 865 “unneeded” facilities, which are costing over $24 million each year to
maintain. A subsequent audit (by the inspector general’s office) published February 2013, further
identified 33 facilities (i.e., thermal vacuum chambers, wind tunnels and other launch infrastructure)
that were underutilized by NASA or had no identifiable future mission. Maintaining these facilities cost
taxpayers another $43 million in 2011.
Efforts to repurpose the facilities have gotten tangled up in political in-fighting, as is the case with the
historic Launch Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center in Florida (annual maintenance cost: $1.2 million). For
NASA, 80% whose facilities are 40 or more years older (well beyond their planned lifecycle), the costs
will only continue to escalate. Maintenance cost estimates for backlogged equipment reached $2.3
billion by 2012.
One solution would be to optimize the maintenance practices for all existing NASA facilities (functional
and non- functional), and thereby reduce their cumulative impact on total cost of operation (TCO).
A power industry study conducted by Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found that the annual
maintenance cost of repairing machinery after it breaks down (corrective or reactive maintenance) is
$17 to $18 per horsepower, while the annual cost per horsepower using preventive maintenance (PM),
is between $11 and $13, and using predictive maintenance (PdM) is between $7 and $9 – a substantial
savings, in the short- and long-run. Moreover, The study revealed a potential maintenance cost savings
of 47% by using PdM techniques.
Dana Madama is the Online Marketing Manager at eMaint Enterprises, located in Marlton, NJ, which provides CMMS and EAM solutions for all of your maintenance and asset management needs.