back to article NASA fingers the cause of two bungled satellite launches, $700m in losses, years of science crashing and burning...

Scientists at NASA have accused one of their metal suppliers of lying about the strength of its aluminium in a 19-year scam that caused $700m in satellites and other parts to go up in smoke. The space agency eggheads pointed the finger of blame at the aluminium manufacturer after probing two failed science missions: the …

  1. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

    I tend to think not since by changing the name, they obviously dissolved the original company and re-formed it. Fines are really only valid punishment if they are paid. If not, it's mere eye-wash and puffery on the part of the prosecution. There's no mention of this, but did the "testing supervisor" do this on his own? Without pressure from higher ups? Just seems odd that he would without some "bonus" of some sort.

    1. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

      did the "testing supervisor" do this on his own?

      Oh dear. Yet another rogue engineer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

        "Oh dear. Yet another rogue engineer."

        Well, let's hope they haven't been supplying any aircraft manufacturers. I rather like not dying because the aircraft I'm on doesn't fall to bits in the sky because it is manufactured from materials which have been certified to conform to an agreed standard.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

          "Well, let's hope they haven't been supplying any aircraft manufacturers. "

          You mean like Ducummon?

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/16/AR2006041600803.html??noredirect=on

          It's not _just_ 737 MAXes you need to worry about, albeit for a different reason.

      2. deive

        Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

        Indeed, although in this case it was a "testing lab supervisor" so lower management, but still the point stands. The people who get paid very large sums because of "responsibility" are not taking any. Hard prison times for those responsible is the only way to stop it happening.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

          Sorry, but the engineers and lab techs under him should be in the cooler as well. If your boss asks you to do something illegal the correct answer is No and report them to upper management. And if that goes nowhere, next stop the cops.

          Since this has been going on for 19 years (f%&k me thats incredible in itself!), any new hire in that department told about this should have gone straight to the cops. And if you get fired, you've got a big payout coming for being sacked for reporting illegal activity.

          Everyone is responsible for not doing illegal things. Saying I was ordered to do it, isnt and has never been, a valid defence...

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

            "Sorry, but the engineers and lab techs under him should be in the cooler as well. If your boss asks you to do something illegal the correct answer is No and report them to upper management. And if that goes nowhere, next stop the cops."

            On the whole, whistle-blowers don't seem to be treated very well in the USA (or most other places for that matter). The culture is to go along with it and hope you aren't caught up in the fall-out. Or leave the company/industry and only then might you risk whistle-blowing if you can take the inevitable shitstorm to trash your reputation. After all, look at the "phone calls" to the FAA from current and past Boeing employees. Where were they months or years ago when the problem was already known? How much is Boeing spending to identify them?

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

              "After all, look at the "phone calls" to the FAA from current and past Boeing employees. Where were they months or years ago when the problem was already known? How much is Boeing spending to identify them?"

              Look back to 2011 - and what happened to the 737NG whistleblowers, pour encourager les autres.

              Incidentally: FAA and FTC employees were recently arrested trying to sell details of whistleblowers back to the companies being complained about. Such a nice country.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

          " in this case it was a "testing lab supervisor" so lower management, but still the point stands."

          Similar to one case I was involved in (Staff in welfare/tax offices selling data to private investigators) - it had been going on for more than a decade, it was happening in _every_ office in the country and yet "no one in management was aware of it".

          Pull the other one Noddy, it's got bells on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Have teh fines, etc. been paid?

      I believe the fines will be paid - the parent company, Norsk Hydro has agreed to pay the fines but I don't believe the payment has been made at this point.

      The name change was, I believe, separate from this investigation as it appears to be related to Norsk Hydro buying out a joint venture to get full control of Sapa in 2017 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydro_Extruded_Solutions).

  2. JLV Silver badge
    Boffin

    this would have been a great scenario for principled, and lucrative, whistleblowing.

    icon cuz closest to rocket science, which is appropriate to the subject, (rather than my input).

    1. Oliver Mayes

      the USA has made it very clear that reporting crimes committed by your superiors is frowned upon, usually starting with jail time.

  3. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Deja Vu

    So nothing's changed since the suppliers were caught providing brittle steel wire for a a certain suspension bridge

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Deja Vu

      Which case was that?

      1. disgruntled yank Silver badge

        Re: Deja Vu

        If you visit New York City and look sufficiently naive, somebody will offer to set it to you. (The bridge, not the case.)

  4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    FAIL

    There is quality

    And there is the illusion of quality..

    And note this "system" was over ridden (supposedly) by 1 PHB without anyone above them noticing.

    Really?

    1. TonyJ Silver badge

      Re: There is quality

      Sure...in the same way that all of VW's emissions testing was performed by one person and Baring's Bank came down because of one rogue trader.

      Like you, and any other rational-minded human, I've never believed that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There is quality

        Barings collapsed because the senior management didn't understand how the system worked. In those days you could be a banker and neither mathematically nor IT literate.

        The way Leeson did it is extremely well documented.

        I once had an argument with a banker of that generation whose point of view was that it wasn't the fault of the management, they weren't expected to know what the bank actually did, it was what came of employing the wrong sort of chappie. Not one of us...I think that's a more accurate description of the mindset.

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: There is quality

          "In those days you could be a banker and neither mathematically nor IT literate".

          "In those days"???

          Guess the odd one out:

          Lord Stevenson, former chairman, HBOS Bank

          Andy Hornby, former ceo, HBOS Bank

          Sir Fred Goodwin, former CEO, RBS Bank

          Sir Tom McKillup, former chairman, RBS Bank

          John McFall MP, chairman, Treasury Select Committee

          Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer

          Sir Terry Wogan, presenter of the BBC Radio 2 Breakfast Show

          Yes, Terry Wogan was the only one with a formal banking qualification. Just as in "Yes, Prime Minister".

          https://www.ukbusinessforums.co.uk/threads/guess-the-odd-one-out.99613/

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: There is quality

      When it comes to aluminum it seems there’s no transparency.

      1. dak
        Boffin

        Re: There is quality

        Yes there is - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_oxynitride

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There is quality

          That isn't aluminium, it is a chemical compound.

          Sodium is a metal, chlorine is greenish yellow, sodium chloride can form transparent cubic crystals. They are not "transparent sodium."

          1. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: There is quality

            Well said! I will demonstrate by plunging this pebble of sodium into this gas jar of chlorine, which I prepared earlier, like soAAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHH! Not again!

    3. SolidSquid

      Re: There is quality

      Without them being able to gather sufficient evidence to prove those above the PHB knew about it anyway

      1. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: There is quality

        "Plausible deniability". Just as children learn to copy their elders, business executives copy their political leaders.

        A fish rots from the head down - and Uncle Yosemite Sam is more than ready for landfill. (I wouldn't put him in the garbage because the smell would upset the whole street).

  5. Andre Carneiro

    Self certification?

    This, coupled with the recent B737Max scandal, seriously casts a poor light on the whole concept of self certification. Good on paper, but clearly eventually the lure of profits ends up corrupting the system. To the surprise of absolutely bloody nobody at all, mind you.

    Also, they caused $700million in losses and agreed to compensate NASA by $31million? Am I missing something?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Self certification?

      If the fine's uncollectable it's rather pointless.

      Insurance probably covered a lot of the losses, this will be recovering (at least) some of the uninsured losses.

      The personal liability is rather more useful. "Do this or you're fired" has less weight when compared to a prison sentence and high personal fines.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Self certification?

        "Insurance probably covered a lot of the losses,"

        Yes, but now the insurance company will be wanting their pound of flesh from the miscreants. There's more to insurance than taking payments for policies and then paying out when things "break". When they say "if there's then there's a claim", they mean it. And they WILL try everything to recompense their loss after paying out.

      2. IT Poser

        Re: Insurance probably covered a lot of the losses

        US government launches are typically not insured. IIRC neither of these payloads were.

    2. pavel.petrman Bronze badge

      Re: Self certification?

      Economies. I you made every supplier liable for the whole damage if their part fails, the supplied parts will be priced accordingly, which in today's term would mean that there will be no rockets and no satellites or far fewer of them (I'm not arguing here that it wouldn't be a bad thing).

      Personal responsibility (for the whole thing if your tiny part causes it to fail) may be the solution, I hear it works wonders in China and North Korea, even for such things as international football matches.

      And lastly, having a third party doing the review and certification doesn't safeguard the whole supply chain against individual violations either regardless of size and perceived reliability of said third party suggests (as the case of certain Arthur Andersen illustrates).

      1. horriblicious

        Re: Self certification?

        Well, the problem is when the party being certified gets to pick which third party to hire and has other separate business arrangements with that same certifier (and hence leverage to insist on a good audit; a problem with accountancy firms having business consulting gigs with the same clients they audit). If NASA picks the third party certifier (and maybe adds the condition that the certifier does no other business with the supplier), that concern goes away. It will complicate purchasing for NASA, but still cheaper than satellites not deploying.

      2. JLV Silver badge

        Re: Self certification?

        That’s one economic view of it. Another is that most people, most of the time, are honest. If you double-check every purchased item yourself, then you will duplicate what your (likely) honest supplier has already done in QA.

        For easily qualifiable criteria, as here, “Trust, but verify”, would be a better model where you carry out random spot checks and the legal framework provides for recourse when the test fails because it’s a sign of fraud

        For things like 737 Max where there are complex aspects to fitness for purpose AND hefty risks, self-certification is more hazy. You want a 2nd opinion, the same way it is inherently risky to allow a programmer to self-QA. So self-certification is really abdicating your responsibility as a government.

        For things like drug qualification tests it’s actually a bit easier even if the risks are high: you want low impact side effects AND recognized efficacy. But both of those are quantifiable in nature and given a suitable validation protocol self-cert can be relied upon, barring fraud.

        Sufficiently egregious fraud should be assumed to run to the top of a company, meaning hefty _personal_ legal risks to C-levels. Add the risk of big corporate fines and you would make not cost-effective to cheat.

        But saving money by systematically dismantling regulatory oversight, as you see with the FAA or the US PTO is a fool’s game. There’s more than enough fat in the overall bloated US Federal budget to trim to cover these departments' ultimately small outlays. Trimming elsewhere would interfere with pork however, as well as the US electorate’s tendency to vote for high services (6-700$B defence among others) and low taxes.

        Pork, graft and corruption happens happily under capitalist or socialist systems BTW. Under communist systems it is almost guaranteed.

    3. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Self certification?

      Plausible deniability again. Self-certification makes sense only given that the entire system is optimised for further enriching the already wealthy. Any superficial pretence of caring about quality is purely cosmetic.

    4. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: Self certification?

      "casts a poor light on the whole concept of self certification"

      The trouble is it would cost NASA $$$ to be testing every part they receive from suppliers (even ignoring destructive tests). Testing (eg) every single rivet you buy is unsustainable, at some point you have to start trusting people.

      As it says in TFA, they already test some parts, they just need to expand that, and maybe add some more random spot checks to keep their suppliers honest. Trust, but verify.

      1. TheSkunkyMonk

        Re: Self certification?

        Or make the suppliers face loosing all their infrastructure for telling porkies in future. If your not going to run it legit you don't get to run it at all.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self certification?

        Really?

        You send inspectors to the plant to collect billet samples, you test them randomly. I have made repeated visits to specialist metals suppliers demanding to see outgoing test records, then had incoming random inspections. Our suppliers were kept honest. If you are trying to suggest that NASA couldn't afford a decent metallurgist, an XRF, a metallurgical microscope and some mechanical test gear, I simply don't believe it.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The Struggle Between Industry and Government

        John Glenn - first American to orbit the earth said his biggest concern was sitting on top of a rocket with 2 million parts all made by the lowest bidder, and it works both ways - I had a relative that worked for a company involved with the Space Shuttle, and NASA was constantly pushing them to cut costs. When Challenger blew up, his first response was "I'm surprised it took this long".

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: The Struggle Between Industry and Government

          " NASA was constantly pushing them to cut costs."

          I've had customers do that too - and in several cases I've told them they're welcome to go to XYZ cheaper supplier because I'm not willing to compromise quality in order to match price (I knew full well what XYZ cheaper supplier was actually offering)

          They invariably came back. The ones that came back still demanding I lower my prices were politely declined (in one case it was because XYZ supplier having secured lockin had tripled prices, but the client wanted me to match the initial price I'd told them was impossible to match and they'd been barely profitable in the first place)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self certification?

      Self certification is a total con job no matter what industry it's in. For example in the Tyre industry the "new" EU Tyre Labeling system is self certified. The only tyre manufactures that play ball are the few top players (Michelin, Pirelli, Bridgestone etc) all the other's just put whatever label they want on the tyres. So when you purchase a Wet Grip rated A tyre made by some obscure manufacturer you can almost guarantee its not A grade.

      Self Certified means we want to look like the good guys but we really dont give a damn and just need to do this so we can make money.

      1. Claverhouse Silver badge

        Re: Self certification?

        With the caveat it is all right with web hosting: I always get a warm glow of utter safety visiting a dodgy website where the webmaster has gone to the trouble of self-certifying his SLL.

        Because his professional reputation is on the line.

    6. Unicornpiss Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Self certification?

      Self-certification is fine as long as you audit it a bit more than once every 19 years!

  6. Blockchain commentard Silver badge

    Cost to NASA, $700m , restitution $40m. And where exactly is the justice in that?

    1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Especially when "NASA", in this case, means "taxpayers".

      1. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Falsifying records is likely to get someone some iron bar hotel time.

        Thing is, if there are MILITARY contracts involved with falsified records like that, it's very very likely things can go horribly wrong for those that are involved. Some programs in the military are set up so that vendors are tracked so you know literally where the ore was mined, where it was smelted, where it was turned into "the part", etc.. in particular with submarines, and no doubt, NASA.

        This is no joking matter. If there are not actual jail sentences handed out I will be VERY, very surprised.

        Back in the 60's two submarines were lost due to faulty safety systems. A program called "SUBSAFE" was created iwhich included the documentation of certain components as I mentioned above (which mine the ore was extracted in, for example) so that there was accountability and quality control all the way up the chain. The reason was simple, LIVES being on the line. The $50 part wasn't going to sink the $5 billion sub. Or crash the $1 billion rocket. That's the idea. Unfortunately it seems THESE guys got caught cheating. These programs DO require honest people to make them work.

        The tests used to determine strength of a metal are standardized tests. It may be that NASA will have to correct its own policies by having random independent labs test things from now on...

        (it saddens me greatly that people can be SO "not caring" about honesty and good business practices that they'll literally steal contracts from others by LYING about what they're actually delivering... these people need to be PROSECUTED to the full extent of the law and made an example of)

        1. I3N
          Unhappy

          Chinesium hits the fan ...

          Wouldn't want to be on watch, either side, when that happens ...

          A synonym for shoddy ... Teledyne

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hopefully there was an insurance policy to cover the material loss (the insurance company may now be after the supplier).

      "Restitution" would be on top to cover the "inconvenience" due to the fraud.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        ""Restitution" would be on top to cover the "inconvenience" due to the fraud."

        I wonder how much will end up in the pockets of the scientists and engineers whose lifes work ended up in the drink? How do you value that?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          "I wonder how much will end up in the pockets of the scientists and engineers whose lifes work ended up in the drink?"

          It didn't. one copy of it did.

          There's ALWAYS a flight spare, for exactly this possibility. The $700million cost covers the hundreds of test articles and prototypes made to verify that the flight article won't break (it's hard to send out AAA to a broken down spacecraft) with the actual unit cost of each article being a lot less than that.

          When a mission fails, the spare is pulled out of storage and strapped to a new booster. If a mission suceeds the flight spare becomes (one of several) the ground test article where every change is run through BEFORE being sent to the bird, to ensure it won't lobotomise the thing.

          The _actual_ losses are the replacement rocket, payload and time, not the entire mission program. Trying to claim the entire $700 million would be thrown out of court.

          Incidentally, NASA has lost more than a few missions to non-exploding explosive bolts in nose cones and interstage connectors. That's why SpaceX uses pneumatics for all these parts (which have a nice side benefit of not leaving fragments in orbit for a few days/weeks/months.) - this probably has a lot to do with the company getting away with bogus certification for so long.

    3. Archtech Silver badge

      It's the American way

      Some rich people profit massively, and the taxpayers make up the deficit. What are you surprised about?

    4. Stevie Silver badge

      Cost to NASA, $700m

      Cost to Taxpayers, $700m.

  7. pavel.petrman Bronze badge

    Aluminum

    There is no such thing as aluminum. Whenever they say aluminum, I say sod 'um!

    1. Alister Silver badge

      Re: Aluminum

      I've never really understood why the Land of the FreeTM are so insistent that it should be aluminum, when they don't do the same for magnesum, titanum, chromum and all the other 'iums in the periodic table.

      I suppose it is consistent with platinum, molybdenum, lanthanum and tantalum, but there's a lot more 'iums.

      1. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        Re: Aluminum

        Umm yes

        1. Giovani Tapini Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Aluminum

          This discussion is filling with Tedium.

          It is a well known element that has the unusual property of reducing the entropy of everything around it. This effect can result in the illusion of repetition and boredom in humans...

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            I think you must mean "tedum". The element from which toy bears are made.

            1. Archtech Silver badge

              Re: Aluminum

              The influence of Vulture Central is formidable, and spreads worldwide:

              "UK Nuclear Lab Achieves Americum-Generated Power"

              https://hardware.slashdot.org/story/19/05/04/2339224/uk-nuclear-lab-achieves-americum-generated-power

          2. Stevie Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            There's more than a trace of Boron too (the subatomic particle that mediates extreme lack of interest).

        2. Chris G Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          No, no, no, Umm should be pronounced eeumm.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Aluminum

            Round here they say eeupp?

            To which there is no inappropriate answer.

            PS when looking back before posting, I noticed that the spill chucker had changed eeupp into euphoria.

      2. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

        Re: Aluminum

        I'd have to go google, but I think it was the original name given to the metal, and then it was renamed with the 'ium' to keep it inline with the naming convention of the aforementioned metals. I guess the 'um' version was in use in parts of the colony, and the carrier pigeon telling them about the change of name never got there.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Aluminum

          the Washington Monument (giant phallus in D.C.) is topped with an aluminum pyramid. It was a 'new fangled' metal at the time, and very very expensive.

          1. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            There is a marvellous story about a dinner the Emperor Napoleon I gave in Paris. At the high table were kings, dukes, marshals of France, and other dignitaries, while hoi polloi filled up the other tables.

            The lower tables had silver cutlery; the second table gold; but the top table were provided with aluminium - le dernier cri.

            1. John R. Macdonald

              Re: Aluminum

              Napoleon III actually.

              1. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
                Holmes

                Re: Aluminum

                Napolium?

        2. Alister Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          According to that unimpeachable fount of all knowledge (Wikipedia) the original name assigned by Humphrey Davy was was 'um, but scientist Thomas Young objected and proposed that it be called 'ium to be consistent with other newly-discovered elements. This was generally accepted worldwide.

          Later, in America, that nice Mr Webster and his dictionary used 'um instead.

          As Bob says, it is consistent with Latin name endings, where alumina is the oxide and aluminum is the element.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Aluminum

            Clearly Thomas Young was THE pedant extraordinaire.

        3. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Aluminum

          I'd have to go google, but I think it was the original name given to the metal, and then it was renamed with the 'ium' to keep it inline with the naming convention of the aforementioned metals.

          Sir Humphry Davy appears to have named the stuff. Initially he went with 'Alumium', from the alum salt from which it was isolated, but a number of his contemporaries felt it had to become 'Aluminum', from alumina, and Davy conceded. Another British Boffin objected and stated that the name had to follow the '-ium' suffix as used in 'sodium', 'potassium' and 'strontium', dismissing 'molybdenum' and 'platinum' as aberrations. This spelling stuck, except in Leftpondia.

          1. el reg teacup ordinance

            Re: Aluminum

            sodium? who knew sodding had its own element?

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Aluminum

        maybe it's a latin thing

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Go

          maybe it's a latin thing

          Romani ite domum!

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Headmaster

            Re: maybe it's a latin thing

            Given the flurry of downvotes now descending on this thread, it appears the People's Front for the Promulgatium of Aluminum is striking.

            Or is it the People's Aluminum Promulgatium Front? I can never tell these splitters apart.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: maybe it's a latin thing

            OK...so, apart from rocket fairings, car components, cooking utensils, food & drink cans and cutlery, what has aluminium ever done for us?

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: maybe it's a latin thing

              Well, of course the foil - that goes without saying.

              1. Pirate Dave Silver badge

                Re: maybe it's a latin thing

                Wait til Biggus Phallius heaws of this.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: maybe it's a latin thing

                "Well, of course the foil - that goes without saying."

                Foil? You mean Tinnium Foil for hats?

                1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                  Re: maybe it's a latin thing

                  "Foil? You mean Tinnium Foil for hats?"

                  It works better for undergarments.

                  1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

                    Re: maybe it's a latin thing

                    In any case the "Language of the Free" is surely written 'Trumpium', when spoken with an appropriate accent 'Trumpish' and when written by the current PoUS 'Bollocks'?

        2. Toni the terrible
          Headmaster

          Re: Aluminum

          The English Language Is the Lingua Franca of Diplomacy and Trade

      4. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: Aluminum

        Also take note of the spelling of explodium, indestructium, incendium and unobtainium.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: Aluminum

          and the worst of them all, GOVERNMENTIUM, whose mass increases continuously, usually in sudden increments (or would that be EXCREMENTS?), and without warning.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            Well, with less Governmentium one's Bribium can be more concentrated, hence more effective, so that would be welcomed by most consortiums[0]. But given the lack of capacity of the current bunch to at the same time walkandchewinggum things don't work out that well, do they?

            [0] yes, it's supposed to be consortia. I know.

          2. Archtech Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            Please consider yourself the recipient of this year's Bierce-Twain-Mencken cup for subversive satire.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
          Happy

          Re: Aluminum

          Don't forget narrativium

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Aluminum

            We don't have any on this planet. Elephants and turtles not big enough.

        3. CJV

          Re: Aluminum

          You forgot to mention adamantium

          1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            Didnt you get the memo?

            Nobody is to mention adamantium

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

        4. I3N
          Pint

          Re: Aluminum

          And of course, Chinesium ...

      5. upsidedowncreature

        Re: Aluminum

        IIRC the element was originally named Aluminum (the American way) and we Brits decided to call it Aluminium to better fit in with other element names ending in -ium.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          Whichever of the two choices for writing or spelling it, I will understand you because I don’t process it with an exact bit match.

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aluminum

        I suppose it is consistent with platinum, molybdenum, lanthanum and tantalum, but there's a lot more 'iums.

        I quite like the sound of "Tantalium", though.

        1. TRT Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          Magneto and Titanium Man

          For a while I thought it was "Magneto Entertanium Man". Entertanium being a vital nutritional supplement required for people on TV and film, and which seems to be absent, or at least severely deficient, in the modern wheatgrass and vegan slime diets of post-millennium Hollywood.

          1. Stoneshop Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Aluminum

            Entertanium being a vital nutritional supplement required for people on TV and film, and which seems to be absent, or at least severely deficient,

            It's been replaced by Borium (Boron to most of you).

            Which in real life has some beneficial properties as part of one's diet.

      7. Archtech Silver badge

        Re: Aluminum

        It goes back to the 19th century when a handful of US schoolteachers, professors and lexicographers proposed simplified spelling. (George Bernard Shaw among others urged the same kind of thing in Britain, with his famous example of irrational pronunciation: "fish" spelled "ghoti" - "gh" as in "touch", "o" as in "women", and "ti" as in "motion").

        H.L. Mencken gave a lot of impetus to the movement for "American English" spelling. But, as others have pointed out, the final consensus is extremely inconsistent. British English is also highly inconsistent, but at least has the justification of tradition.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: "gh" as in "touch"

          That is indeed a weird pronunciation.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: "gh" as in "touch"

            Quite tough to understand

      8. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aluminum

        It is a really interesting story.

        American scientists and engineers did spell it "aluminium", but journalists mis-spelled it, and such is the power of a Free Press (™) that it became the general US spelling to the extent that the IUPAC were strong armed into allowing it as a variant.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          And no doubt the marketing people, not exactly the brightest sparks in the firmament, thought that a-LOO-minum worked better in the advertising jingles, especially back when a-LOO-minim siding was the new space age thing to upgrade your house.

      9. Marshalltown

        Re: Aluminum

        It's because we sided with Sir Humphrey Davy, who specified "aluminum." That extra syllable in "aluminium" wastes time don't ya know?

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Aluminum

          Most Americans I know waste so much time over-stressing the LOO that an unstressed 'i' in there somewhere nowhere near compensates.

      10. Marshalltown

        Re: Aluminum

        Oh, and BTW, Canadians also follow Sir Humphrey Davy. The real question is why Anglophones woud follow the arguments of French, Germans and Scandinavians rather than their very own.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Aluminum

          "The real question is why Anglophones woud follow the arguments of French, Germans and Scandinavians rather than their very own."

          Because English is a mongrel language built on the foundations of French, German and Swedish?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Troll-fodder

      Who said anything about "aluminum" before you introduced it?

      1. pavel.petrman Bronze badge

        Re: Troll-fodder

        It says "(or aluminum in Freedom Language)" right in the article (you can check yourself using the search function of your browser, usually activated with Ctrl+F).

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Stop

          Re: Troll-fodder

          Indeed it does. A mention that's already dripping with all the sarcasm you could ask for. The article's author having already made your point, and in a more imaginative way, your post was classic troll: sure to generate more heat than light.

    3. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Aluminum

      Obvously leavng the 'i' out reduces the structural ntegrty.

      (as for other 'ums', I find the lack of AvE fans disturbing)

      1. pavel.petrman Bronze badge

        Re: Aluminum

        Leaving letters out is known to have adverse effects: some are worried that the Earth without art is just 'Eh', but more pressingly The United States of America without the heunedtatesam is just Tits of Erica.

        1. Inspector71
          Happy

          Re: Aluminum

          'Earth without art is just 'Eh'

          Ah, the Canadian pronunciation....

          1. timrowledge

            Re: Aluminum

            Remember, it’s ‘C’, eh, ‘n’, eh, ‘d’, eh?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Aluminum

          And Edward Woodward without the Ds is Ewar Woowar

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Aluminum @Jellied Eel

        ... and remember, keep your disk in a vice!

    4. Symon Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Aluminum

      Thank God no-one's mentioned sulfur. --->

    5. EVP

      Re: Aluminum

      For me, the only way to spell it is ’almiiiiiiiiiuum’.

      (Posted from my MacBook Pro 2017)

    6. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Aluminum

      Interestingly, Wikipedia has a page for Aluminium, but the page for Aluminum simply redirects to that

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Aluminum

        Wikipedia are correct on this.

        1. Unicornpiss Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Aluminum

          Wikipedia was wrong before, I think, but it was updated for the new millenum.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Aluminum

            "but it was updated for the new millenum."

            "i" saw what you did there!

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Aluminum..started as a typo..

      Years ago, back when there was actual science in Scientific American, I remember reading a piece about how they , the magazine, accepted the blame for the missing letter i in aluminium. They story as told by them was that Scientific American was the first magazine in the United State to write a report about the new electrolytic method to refine aluminum. So about the mid 1850's. Until then aluminium had been a rare and rarely mentioned exotic metal. In the story they misspelled the name of the metal and this short news story became the ur reference for future US dictionary citations.

      So a touches of the Nome, AK's, perhaps.

  8. Big_Boomer Bronze badge

    Oooh, did rampant unfettered Capitalism fail again? Was if because of corporate and/or individual greed again? Why are we surprised,.... AGAIN?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Facepalm

      I fart in your general direction for slamming capitalism because of a few bad actors...

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Trollface

        because of a few bad actors...

        A few? There's hundreds of them, starting with Ben Affleck, Kevin Costner and Keanu Reeves.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        He didn't slam capitalism

        He slammed unfettered capitalism. Only a fool would agree that capitalism is a good system without any regulation. The idea is that regulation corrects for market failures, and one market failure of capitalism is that efficient markets assume that if you sell something as 'x' it really is 'x'. In reality sometimes people will sell something as 'x' when it is really 'y', because 'y' is cheaper for them to supply and 'x' is more profitable for them to sell.

        When regulations are removed to clear "red tape" that are "harming business" that's great if it is useless red tape, or saving less money than it costs. When it corrects bad behavior and saves more money than it costs then it is good, though some politicians do not agree and will tell you that all regulation is bad. At least until it comes to protecting some of their constituents from lower priced (often foreign) competition, in which case regulation that favors their constituents is somehow a good thing!

        1. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: He didn't slam capitalism

          Trouble is, when capitalism is regulated it inevitably winds up being regulated by the capitalists.

          In accordance with certain familiar laws of nature. Water runs downhill. Rich people get whatever they want. Like that.

          1. DougS Silver badge

            Re: He didn't slam capitalism

            And that's why you need campaign finance restrictions, so the capitalists can't so easily own the politicians and write their own regulations. You see that happening right now in Trump's swamp (not to say it didn't happen in Obama's (et al) swamp as well, but past presidents haven't been quite so brazen as Trump at appointing the worst people to positions of regulatory power)

            Simple rules I'd make (which would probably require a constitutional amendment given the Citizens United ruling so I'm not holding my breath) only individuals can donate money to politicians. Corporations aren't people, unions aren't people, non-profits aren't people. Let non-profits lobby, with a requirement they clearly state their (individuals only!) donors and political goals. Corporations and unions shouldn't be allowed to associate with politicians at all. The CEO / union boss can personally donate within the legal donation limits, and to non-profits who lobby, but they shouldn't be allowed to "speak" for their shareholders or union members at all pro or con for any candidate or party or platform.

            And political donations should not be tax deductible!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: He didn't slam capitalism

            "Water runs downhill" - That reminds me, one thing that has always bothered me, why did Jack & Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water? nobody digs a well at the top of a hill and rivers are almost exclusively in valleys, however shallow (East Anglia excepted).

            1. John H Woods

              Re: up the hill

              I think I'd rather drink from the spring up the hill than the pond at the bottom... YMMV.

            2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: He didn't slam capitalism

              why did Jack & Jill go up the hill to fetch a pail of water?

              Well one theory I've heard was that it was (like a few other nursery rhymes) slang for some rumpy pumpy or even an orgy.

              Went up the hill - going upstairs.

              Broke his crown - lost his virginity

              and so on. Probably untrue, but makes for a bit of amusement.

      3. hammarbtyp Silver badge

        Its not so much the bad actors - any system can be gamed. However if you go to the extremes in any system this is what you get.

        The problem is there is always a push to reduce government oversight. The libertarians will spout the Ayn Rand shit and say the government has to get out of the way of the market. However without the checks and balances that government provides this, Enron , 737 max is what results because eventually someone will realise that without someone providing neutral oversight they can do anything they want and nobody will stop them

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The government in this case is the customer. As a customer, and like any customer with very specific, low-tolerance requirements, NASA ought indeed to be tightly managing its suppliers for quality. That's entirely independent of whether and how some non-NASA, non-customer government agency ought to (or ought not to) regulate commercial transactions between other parties.

          If you have strict requirements such that you're willing to pay extra for specific testing, you also make sure you're choosing who does that testing and paying them yourself rather than paying the supplier and just trusting that they're doing it properly (if you do choose that route, you put a couple of your own people on site as observers, and you rotate them). This is true regardless of whether the standards in question are imposed by your own specific needs or some third-party government regulator, and is really supply chain management 101 type stuff. After all, if they'll cheat NASA and the DoD (not a good move, btw), they'll also cheat the FTC or whichever other bureaucracy you'd propose to further empower. In fact, they probably won't even need to cheat because they'll capture the regulator, which is inevitable and perhaps best observed in the example of the US FCC. Aside from capture, bureaucrats are not inherently more dedicated or competent than businessmen, and no penalty is ever enough to deter the truly vicious or viciously stupid. Ultimately there is no alternative to caveat emptor. Whether you prefer to trust your suppliers or a government regulator, you'll eventually be betrayed.

          There is some really interesting material in Ben Rich's book about how the US Navy did business with Lockheed. Kelly Johnson's position was that their excessive rigour and fastidious devotion to paperwork were ultimately self-defeating, but it was very clear that they understood perfectly well that the only way to guarantee you are getting what you pay for is to observe and document, for yourself, every single step in the process of its manufacture. No doubt a byproduct of the SUBSAFE programme other commenters have mentioned. It works. It's very expensive, but it works, and if something absolutely must be right, it's the only solution. Regardless of who the customer is or whether something is nominally regulated by a government agency.

    2. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      Guess your acquaintance with Soviet-era quality controls ain’t quite worth writing home about.

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Big Brother

        In Soviet Russia

        quality controls you.

        1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

          Re: In Soviet Russia

          Funny how the memes live on long after the website has passed into obscurity

    3. Zare

      Obviously NASA failed because it is a government agency, if it were only a private corporation, like Sapa Profiles Inc, i mean Hydro Extrusion Portland, Inc, i mean....hhhmm...

    4. Archtech Silver badge

      But... but... but... corporate and individual greed are GOOD! Aren't they?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bribe

    So the company pays a bribe aka a fine and the bosses dont go to jail. Like the bankers there is no justice for the big guys.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Bribe

      " Like the bankers there is no justice for the big guys".

      Of course there is justice for the big guys. The justice system gives them whatever they want. After all, they own it. Just as they own the President, Congress, the Pentagon and the rest of government.

    2. Kubla Cant Silver badge

      Re: Bribe

      Like the bankers there is no justice for the big guys

      Not so. They get the best justice money can buy.

  10. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Aeroplanes do require and use aluminum do they?

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    No doubt pressure was applied during testing, both on the sample and the engineers

    "I find your lack of faith in our aluminium disturbing"

  12. amlendu kumar
    Devil

    Titanic anyone

    This is Titanic sized :)

    Brittle steel

  13. DuncanLarge Silver badge

    So they cost NASA 700m

    They get away paying back a small percentage of it.

    I'd sue for the full amount. I dont care if they have to flip burgers and drive a car worth £100 as scrap, I'd want it all.

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Prison, and lots of it

      Those responsible need a good long prison sentence, as well as repaying in full whatever they stole - with interest and damages.

      Try a stunt like that in China and you'd end up in front of a firing squad - and quite right too.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Re: Those responsible

        It would seem that the situation is a bit more complicated. Formerly-known-as-SPI is now part of a Norwegian conglomerate.

        So who's to say that the rot was purely local ? I'm sorry, but multinationals are not high on my list of trusted things these days.

        1. Stoneshop Silver badge
          Holmes

          Re: Those responsible

          Formerly-known-as-SPI is now part of a Norwegian conglomerate.

          Norsk Hydro. Since 2013.

          So who's to say that the rot was purely local ?

          The (failed) launches happened in 2009 and 2011, so the fraud affecting these particular parts was committed earlier than that.

        2. Archtech Silver badge

          Re: Those responsible

          Well, any corporation is basically nothing but a Terminator programmed to make as much money as possible as quickly as possible. No other rules.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Prison, and lots of it

        Try a stunt like that in China and you'd end up in front of a firing squad - and quite right too.

        Only if you were foolish enough to sell to the Chinese Government or Military. If you're selling to foreigners, you'd probably get a pat on the back...

    2. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      So they cost NASA 700m

      They get away paying back a small percentage of it.

      Others have already pointed out that there was probably insurance that paid out most if not all of the losses. The insurers may well now seek to recover their losses in a civil case ... and they have a $700m incentive to do so.

  14. keith_w

    I find it amazing that those who cost NASA 2 satellites, and the insurance company $700 Million get a few years in jail and a fine, but those involved in the university bribery scandal are looking at 20 years in lockup.

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge
      Go

      Seems so, but the establishment is terrified that people might start to believe university educations can be bought and sold --- plus that the student body in colleges may come to be over represented by the rich and aristocratic classes.

      President Trump has some considerable expertise in education, having run his own college, and is determined to make examples of cheating dishonest malefactors of great wealth.

  15. cantankerous swineherd

    "... every component made by the lowest bidder" - an astronaut, soz cba to Google it.

    1. Wellyboot Silver badge
      Mushroom

      John Glenn in '62 while sitting atop an Atlas.

      Icon - all to common then -->

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Kobe(yashi Maru)

    Almost 18 moths ago I was contacted by a customer who purchased some engineering components from us a decade earlier, asking if we could go through all our records and confirm to them that we supplied no products to them that contained steel sourced from Kobe Japan. It turns out Kobe, for over a decade had been falsifying material certificates which they ultimately fessed up to. From a liability point of view this was terrible. We supply components to automotive, ship building and aerospace industries, and they were asking us to provide certification for products we'd supplied a decade earlier, stating that neither us nor anyone in our supply chain had used Kobe steel. Considering we only keep records going back 7 years this was an impossible task, yet their QC / lawyers kept badgering us week after week insisting we must comply. And they were a much much larger company than us by a factor of several 0s.

    The real scary thing that hit me, is that it only takes one supplier back in the chain to lie, and if say a plane falls out of the sky I can be found to be jointly liable, even tho I'm several points removed from the final customer.

    In the end I had to turn it back on them, I pointed out that due to their governmental and military supplier approvals, ISO accreditations and ultimately their insurance liability they should be recalling say a warship, stripping it down and performing chemical analysis on the steel to verify it's suitability, and then go back to their batch production records to verify the supplier for components used on that job. I ended with "I assume you keep job batch records for more than a decade?".

    1. Archtech Silver badge

      Re: Kobe(yashi Maru)

      "The real scary thing that hit me, is that it only takes one supplier back in the chain to lie..."

      Rather like the software supply chain, in fact. Remember the Thompson Hack?

      http://wiki.c2.com/?TheKenThompsonHack

      Just when you least expect it...

      Indeed, things are now much worse, as even if you think all your software is safe, your hardware may attack it.

  17. wayne 8 Bronze badge

    No one goes to jail, again

    No one at that level ever gets prison time in USA.

    Steal $1,000, get jail time and a lifetime status as a felon.

    Steal millions, billions, pay a paltry fine and walk away.

    Launder millions of drug money, pay a few points in fines to a regulator, and carry on.

    US National Debt is $22+ trillion.

    The Pentagon cannot account for $21 trillion.

    Coincidence?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should anyone be surprised?

    Its American Capitalism at its worst. Corporate greed at its best. Has anyone forgotten the recent Boeing incidents? Want extra safety, pay more, was the Mantra.

    And when VW and other German car Mfrs. fudge emissions data, they are fined billions. Thats more greed. Cuts both ways.

    Seriously, why has no one filed a class action suit on behalf of the Boeing dead? Are American Lawyers not greedy enough? What happened to the Ambulance chasers?

  19. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Mushroom

    I'm not actually understanding how they expected to get away with it --- apart from the fact that procurement has never been known for absolute rectitude and so is carefully scrutinised by the buyers, surely one might expect one's chicanery to be obvious when rockets begin falling out of the sky ?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "I'm not actually understanding how they expected to get away with it "

      Apparently they got away with it for 19 years. Why wouldn't their greed let them think they couldn't keep doing it?

  20. TrumpSlurp the Troll Silver badge

    How did the test supervisor benefit?

    Unless he was a major shareholder?

    Missing something here.

  21. Toni the terrible
    Flame

    Failure of QA

    I dont care how Al is spelled in long form.

    I do know there is a big problem in Quality Assurance world wide where you can get the certificate for processes on paper BUT there is no real guarantee you will get what you paid for. Trust is not the issue as where money is involved there is NO trust. You HAVE to check your suppliers, random sampling or by other processes. This is because at some time they WILL send you crap certified as meeting the standard, no matter who they are.

    As with shoplifting you also have to sue defaulting suppliers to keep them honest. Name and shame also helps, as it can (not always) hurt their bottom line.

    This NASA thing just confirms that while you can save money on QA and testing you will always suffer in the longer term.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019