Metaling in NASA’s Affairs

Diving further into last week’s VOTW topic as details emerge

Talk about a ‘long con’. News erupted last Thursday that aluminum manufacturer Hydro Extrusion—formerly known as Sapa Profiles, Inc. (SPI)—admitted to providing customers, the most prominent of which included U.S. government contracts such as NASA and the Department of Defense, with falsified certifications for almost 20 years.

A week later, additional details are scarce (the long-term investigation by the Department of Justice was the real meat & potatoes, here), but there are some interesting clues for those looking to dig deeper.

Hydro Extrusion’s website claims of a cyberattack on March 19. Beyond this, it hasn’t yet offered any statement on the NASA matter. Hydro is the parent company of SPI, and is based in Norway.

The Oregon-based Sapa settled a $47 million suit upon admittance that it altered the results of tensile tests designed to ensure the consistency and reliability of aluminum extruded at its facilities. “Tensile testing involves slowly stretching and then ripping apart a sample of the metal using a machine, which then measures the force applied to the sample at each stage of the test,” according to the Department of Justice report filed April 23 and released last Thursday.


NASA contends that the fraudulent aluminum was cause for at least two failed missions and more than $700 million in losses. The missions in question are the Orbiting Carbon Observatory and Glory missions, launched in 2009 and 2011. Both failures were defined by pay-load fairing structures not separating from the rocket, thus preventing it from reaching the third stage of orbit.

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