Status Report

A Perspective on Roadmapping and Development of the Integrated Strategic Architecture for NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration

By SpaceRef Editor
May 26, 2005
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A Perspective on Roadmapping and Development of the Integrated Strategic Architecture for NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration

M.P. Loomis

Working Draft


Advanced Planning and Integration Office (APIO) NASA Headquarters

“The key element of any system architecture is that it be responsive to an overarching framework of goals. When a system architecture -or a specific vehicle -is designed without reference to such top-level goals, the result is a point design that is unlikely to blend smoothly into any larger picture. Rather than being designed to meet a higher purpose, the purpose becomes merely that set of tasks the system can accomplish.”

-Michael Griffin, Prepared Statement for the Hearing on the NASA Orbital Space Plane Program,
U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics, May 2003

Introduction -The Vision

Signaling a major change in U.S. space policy, in January 2004 the President committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system. The policy, known as “the vision for space exploration” directed NASA to complete work on the space station by 2010, retire the Shuttle by the end of the decade and begin developing a new manned exploration vehicle (known as the crew exploration vehicle). The President directed NASA to explore beyond our orbit to other worlds, starting with a return to the Moon by 2015-2020 that will ultimately enable more ambitious missions such as exploring Mars and other destinations. Announcing a major change in the way NASA operates, the President also directed the NASA Administrator to review all current space flight activities and redirect them towards the implementation of the new U.S. Space Exploration Policy. (In the rest of this paper, the policy will be referred to as the Vision.)

Advanced Planning and the Road to the Agency’s Strategic Architecture

“Engineering has, in recent decades, taken on the development of systems of larger and larger scale and increasing complexity. Many examples can be found in transportation, defense, and power generation. Such systems, because of their size and complexity often have human or social considerations that must be accounted for in their design….This human/social interface creates a set of boundary conditions that are not normally (or easily) considered by the engineering science approach….As the systems that engineers are called upon to design grow in scale and complexity, these systems inevitably encounter human, social, political, and managerial interface issues that can no longer be ignored.”

-Thomas Allen, Deborah Nightingale, and Earll Murman, “Engineering Systems, an Enterprise Perspective,” MIT Engineering Systems Monograph, 2004

In response to the new Vision and the President’s call for change, NASA has instituted a sweeping transformation to better focus on the implementation of the Vision. An integral part of the transformation is the way in which strategic planning is conducted. In particular, the President’s mandate that all space flight activities must contribute to the overall Vision has created a need for an agency-wide integrated planning process. This is in contrast to the traditional “stove piped” approach in which strategic planning efforts were conducted individually for each enterprise and integration consisted of simply “stapling together” the results for the agency Strategic Plan. A series of activities have been instituted which will introduce an amount of crosstalk and coordination to ensure that NASA’s mission and mission support elements are effectively aligned and integrated.

The first of the activities is an extensive roadmapping exercise consisting of the efforts of a number of teams categorized by strategic thrust (Strategic Roadmaps) or needed capability (Capability Roadmaps). These teams are staffed by a mix of NASA experts and nationally renowned external experts. They will spend six months charting a course of action that will be reviewed by the National Research Council. The roadmaps will come together in a process known as Roadmap Integration that will lead to the creation of a single high-level framework known as Integrated Strategic Architecture. The Architecture forms the basis of the Strategic Plan and will be the basis by which the Strategic Planning Council makes informed decisions regarding the Agency’s programs and budgets. This process is being coordinated by the newly created Advanced Planning and Integration Office (APIO), which reports to the Associate Deputy Administrator for Advanced Planning and Systems Integration. Since the concept of an Agency- wide Integrated Strategic Architecture based on Strategic and Capability Roadmaps is new to the agency, it is useful to review previous efforts by others in this area with the idea of applying lessons learned and to reduce the time spent on the learning curve. Significant work has been done in industry, DOD and the academic community over the last 20 years regarding these topics, providing NASA much to leverage.


“The Enterprise Roadmap Management System provides a common roadmapping process, a common software solution, and a common information architecture for all of Motorola. This gives Motorola Associates the Ability to create, build and share their technology visions, products and business strategy roadmaps throughout the corporation.”

-James Richey and Mary Grinnell, “Evolution of Roadmapping at Motorola,” Research- Technology Management, March-April 2004.

The rapid growth of science and technology (S&T) has substantially increased the complexity of S&T management. Fortunately, the parallel growth of information science & technology offers the promise of advanced decision aids to support management in this increasingly complex world. Metrics, data mining informational retrieval, relational databases, roadmaps and other information based technologies are receiving increased attention and development efforts due to the prospect of greatly enhanced productivity tools for the knowledge worker. 1

Over the last 20 years, roadmapping has become a popular metaphor for strategic planning in science and technology. Generally, an S & T roadmap provides a consensus view or vision of the future landscape available to decision makers. When conducted properly, a roadmapping effort provides a way to involve critical stakeholders as well as to identify, evaluate and select alternatives that can be used to achieve a desired objective. The process of roadmapping helps to narrow the field of requirements and possible solutions to those most likely to be pursued, providing the systems architect with an invaluable tool. For the product manager, a roadmap’s implementability is as important as its strategic value, and a number of firms have implemented roadmapping on a large scale. Motorola has long championed a company wide Enterprise Roadmap Management System. The company utilizes the Strateva Vision Strategist roadmapping software platform and has approximately 3000 users and over 5000 roadmaps created in the roadmap library.2

The U.S. semiconductor industry, which relies heavily on technology roadmapping, is one of the success stories of the past fifty years and sets the pace of global economic growth. With projected sales of $214 billion in 2004, the industry is an order of magnitude larger than the U.S. civilian space effort. “The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) Technology roadmap, now referred to as the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS) is a cooperative effort of global industry manufacturers, suppliers, government organizations, consortia and universities that identifies the technological challenges and needs facing the semiconductor industry over the next 15 years.” 3 The development of the roadmap involves participation of 12 different technology working groups in core disciplines such as design, assembly and packaging, lithography, etc., as well as cross-cut technology areas such as environment, safety, health, etc.

Roadmapping efforts are not entirely new to NASA; the Science Mission Directorate has conducted highly successful roadmapping efforts for years. These efforts have resulted in significant stakeholder (the science community) involvement and satisfaction derived from the consensus building effort. What is new about the current roadmapping effort at NASA is the agency-wide breadth of the effort. The composition of the roadmap committees, which includes roughly 1/3 NASA personnel and the rest from industry and academia, ensures broad stakeholder involvement and a relatively transparent process. Furthermore, the need to coordinate and optimize all the activities of the agency has mandated a corporate level approach to the management of the process. Upon completion of the individual roadmaps, an intense roadmap integration phase is envisioned leading to the development of several scenario driven architectures, which will be used as the basis for future agency level decisions by the Strategic Planning Council. A key part of this process will be to maintain the consensus and process transparency of the individual roadmapping efforts, since this phase will not have extensive external participation.

Integrated Strategic Architecture

“System Architecture Synthesis is part of the overall process of system design, which includes requirements analysis and functional analysis. This process can be seen as a search through a highly nonlinear design space of very large dimension. This search process is very iterative. An initial set of functions is defined to carry out the systems mission. Requirements quantify how well the functions must be performed, and impose constraints. The realities of a practical architecture may reveal the need for additional functional and performance requirements, corresponding to architecture features necessary for wholeness of the design, but not invoked by the original set of functions. The initial functional and performance requirements may prove infeasible or too costly with any realizable architecture. Consequently, the search process involves a mutual adjustment of functions, requirements and architecture until a compatible set has been discovered… For this process to converge to an adequate approximation of the true optimum in reasonable time requires considerable skill in balancing depth and breadth within the search strategy.”

-INCOSE Systems Engineering Handbook, Version 2a, 2004

Systems architecture in this context, is a concept developed in the systems engineering community and draws upon that discipline for many concepts, models and tools. In Ref. 4, Crawley states that “System architecture is an abstract definition of the entities of a system and the relationship between those entities.” A simpler version from his class (ESD 34j -System Architecture) notes at MIT, is that “architecture consists of function, related by concept, to form”. The function is simply what the system is supposed to do, and the form is what the system is (or how the system performs the function. A related concept is what-how decomposition from General Systems Theory.

The implementation of an architecture, which for large complex systems is sometimes known as a system-of systems or a federation-of-systems 5, should lead to the accomplishment of the strategic goals. The architecture of a system is extremely important, especially for large complex sociotechnical systems, since it will have a strong influence on the outcome. Another important aspect of the architecture for a large complex system is the impact on integration; a well architected system will enable smooth integration, while a poorly constructed architecture may fail completely during the integration phase.

In NASA’s case, the entities may be a series of missions as well as the technology or infrastructure used to complete these missions. The missions will be connected by a series of relationships, such that one mission may feed information into a following mission. The hardware will also have a set of relationships, since the technology for surface operations will feed into the technology to build the surface operations on Mars.

Several methods have been developed (or are still in development) over the last few years that provide a framework for the development of a strategic architecture. Structured Analysis 6 and Object-Process Networks< SUP>7 are two related frameworks that appear relevant to this effort. In Structured Analysis, the architecture is made up of a functional architecture and a physical architecture. The functional architecture is a hierarchical description of the functions performed by the system (The what?). The physical architecture of a system is a hierarchical description of the resources that comprise the systems (The How?). The resources can be hardware, software, people, facilities, procedures, and documents6. In order to begin the process, a scenario, or operational concept is used to start the process.

Structured analysis resembles quite closely the current process being conducted at NASA. The Strategic roadmaps, with a few exceptions, closely resemble elements of a Functional Architecture. Exploring the Moon and Mars are what the vision is supposed to do. The Capability Roadmaps, also with a few exceptions, closely resemble the elements of the Physical Architecture (capabilities are the resources needed to build the system, they provide the answer to how are we going to get there?) A scenario also roughly corresponds to the operational concept, which is needed to begin the process. The vision obviously provides us with a high level operational concept, however in order to reduce the number of possible solutions additional scenarios are required to reduce the problem to a more tractable level. Currently the plan is to use scenarios such as “complete the vision and have high science return”, or “complete the vision and get to mars the quickest.” Methods, tools and software, developed by the systems engineering community for DoD and the computer industry, are available to assist in this process.

Figures of Merit

“Metrics of architecture are necessary means to compare the goodness of architectural alternatives. To arrive at a decision, a preference order must be established between all available mission modes. The meta language should provide the means to compute performance metrics, otherwise, a large set of unstructured list of alternatives would provide little or no value to decision makers.”

-Benjamin Koo , Ph.D. Thesis, Engineering Systems Division, MIT, 2005

During the Strategic Architecture development effort, a consistent architecting framework and rigorous approach to figures of merit will be needed to allow NASA decision makers to make the best decisions regarding which of the architectures to implement. As mentioned before, some very big decisions regarding the future of the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station will need to be made as a part of implementing the overall architecture.

Any approach to formalizing figures of merit must first take into consideration stakeholder requirements. The vision for exploration represents official presidential policy with regards to civilian space, hence the architecture must satisfy the requirements laid out in the policy directive. National Security Space (NSS) policy makers played a large part in the drafting of the vision and it is also imperative that their requirements are met. Other stakeholders, roughly in order of importance are Congress, industry, the Scientific Community, the NASA bureaucracy and workforce, education interests, and the general taxpayers.


A review of roadmapping and systems architecting has been conducted for the purpose of providing background and a framework for the development of the Integrated Space Architecture. Several promising approaches and sets of tools were discussed which are currently at a state of development which is appropriate for use in this effort.


1. Kostoff, R.N., and Schaller, R.R. “Science and Technology Roadmaps,” IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, Vol. 48, No. 2, May 2001.

2. Richey, J.M., and Grinnell, M. “Evolution of Roadmapping at Motorola, ” Research-Technology Management.

3. Schaller, R.R., Technological Innovation in the Semiconductor Industry: A Case Study of the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS), Ph.D Dissertaion, George Mason University, 2004

4. Crawley, et. al., (2004) “The Influence of Architecture in Engineering Systems,” MIT Engineering Systems Monograph (

5. Sage, A.P. and Cuppan, C.D, (2001) “On the Systems Engineering and Management of Systems of Systems and Federations of Systems”, Information, Knowledge and Systems Management,2(4) 325-345.

6. Buede, D.M., The Engineering Design of Systems: Models and Methods, John Wiley & Sons, 2000

7. Koo, Benjamin, “A Meta Language for Systems Architecting,” Ph.D. Thesis, Engineering Systems Division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jan. 2005

SpaceRef staff editor.