Hubble Builders Got Award Fees, Magazine Says : Space: NASA paid as much as $1 million in bonuses to two telescope contractors for their cost-control efforts, a publication reports.

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from Associated Press

The government overpaid as much as $1 million in bonuses to two Hubble Space Telescope contractors for their cost-control efforts on the device, whose flaws have become a major problem for NASA, a magazine reported Saturday.

Congressional Quarterly reported in its Saturday edition that the overpayments occurred at the same time costs for the expensive telescope were rising dramatically. The original cost estimate for the Hubble was $678 million, but its final price tag was more than $1.5 billion.

The magazine said information about the bonus was contained in a July, 1989, audit report by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s office of inspector general. The material was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.


The Hubble telescope was launched April 24 and NASA announced June 27 that its two main mirrors would not focus properly. A manufacturing error was suspected.

Congressional Quarterly said the inspector general’s report accused NASA management of “not properly considering all . . . cost overruns” in figuring cost-control bonuses paid to Hubble’s two principal contractors, Lockheed Corp. and Perkin-Elmer Corp., now Hughes-Danbury Optical Systems Inc., which built the telescope’s mirrors.

Lockheed received $14.4 million in bonuses and Hughes-Danbury was paid $6 million in bonuses through April 30, 1987, the report said. If NASA had fully considered the cost overruns, the bonuses may have been reduced by as much as $1 million, the report said.

Attempts Saturday to reach either of the contractors and NASA were unsuccessful. But Congressional Quarterly quoted project managers at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., as disagreeing with the audit conclusions but promising to implement many of the report’s recommendations.

A Lockheed official also took issue with the report. The magazine said Hughes-Danbury declined to comment.