Status Report

Letter from NASA ESMD Deputy Doug Cooke Regarding Robotic Lunar Exploration Program 2 Roles

By SpaceRef Editor
December 9, 2005
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Editor’s note:This letter was sent out by Doug Cooke at ESMD with guidance to the NASA centers about RLEP2 roles. It is clear that there was no intent to give APL the Comm/Nav piece.  Comm/Nav was explicitly called out as a GSFC role.

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“The selected RLEP Lander mission team and guidance:

A combination of the GSFC and MSFC proposals has been selected, augmented with concepts from other proposals. Combining the GSFC proposed organization structure and teaming with the team and general mission approach of the MSFC proposal will bring the best expertise and concepts to the mission. Both teams have proposed including the Applied Physics Lab as a key team member. This is acceptable subject to applicable laws and regulations. I am tasking them to develop the new teaming arrangement in the next 3 weeks. Over the next 3 months, I am tasking them to conduct the trade studies that will better define the mission, based on their further-developed requirements. I will ask them to review the other RLEP Lander proposals, with the assumed permission of the proposers, for expertise and ideas that will contribute to the best value for the mission. The two teams are being asked to reformulate their teams to combine the best of both and present the structure and teaming with proposed contractual arrangements back to ESMD/RLEP Office at the end of the three week period. These activities will be coordinated by the RLEP Office at Ames research Center.

It was clear from all the presentations that there is low probability of achieving the “ground truth” objective for the lower cost option at $400M based on these preliminary analyses. The team should attempt to stay near this lower cost level, but must address the primary mission objectives of finding “ground truth” for the water-ice and the descent and landing objective. The upper limit of $750M should be used. The trades include studying the scale of the concept and necessary instrumentation against the available funding. A detailed cost estimate will be needed to assure high confidence in achieving the cost target. This approach assumes the launch dates corresponding to the funding levels needed from the initial instructions. The mission concept should generally follow the MSFC proposed concept, where a CLV test flight is used to launch the lander, and a throttleable RL-10 engine is used for the descent and landing to best emulate the human landing approach. To the degree possible, the landing should be a verification test of the human lander descent and landing guidance and flight control algorithms, the precision landing and hazard avoidance capability, including navigation and instruments. Launch on an existing MLV or EELV should be held as a back-up until a launch vehicle commitment is required. Other objectives as stated in the initial letter and instructions apply. The design should be for a common lander design, not a point design, that can be used for future landed missions. It should incorporate simple interfaces to accommodate instrumentation, experiments, and cargo for future landed missions. It should therefore be possible to replicate the common lander for low recurring costs. An overall operations approach should be proposed by the team.

I have not made a decision on all of the instrumentation that should be flown on this mission. ESMD/HQ along with the RLEP Program Office and the RLEP Lander team will assess the different measurements and instruments that were proposed and determine the best complement for the mission that will fit within cost constraints.

At a top level the proposed team structure including additional expertise is as stated below and other assignments as determined in the initial three week period:

MSFC: Project Management lead, Engine (see trades below), CLV test flight

GSFC: Deputy Project Manager, Communication/Navigation, beacons, potential comm/nav relay, per the discussion during the review.

APL: Potentially-Project Support, Lander (Participation to be defined, and if implemented, subject to applicable laws and regulations).

JSC participation, taking advantage of the Entry Descent and Landing Team work: Descent and Landing participation, including ops participation during this flight phase. This is important for implementing this capability in future human landers.

JSC: Operations flight following (not primary ops) for the mission. This is for a small operations team to get necessary experience for human lunar missions. RESOLVE (final content pending final decision on needed measurements)

In terms of guidance, I am suggesting, not requiring these 2 possible arrangements:

GRC: Power per GSFC proposal (potential MMRTG vs. fuel cell trade for rover, if applicable (see rover note below))

JPL: Surface ops, potential rover lead, if rover is chosen for mobility.

In addition to other trades that are deemed necessary in the follow-on activity, the mission team is requested to perform the following trades to help finalize the mission design. Additional trades should be identified at the end of the initial 3 week period.

1. MSFC Concept:

Trade scale of lander mission and payloads vs. available budget. A balance must be struck between achieving primary mission objectives and the need to keep costs to a minimum, including low cost recurring mission capability. Trade throttleable vs. solid engine concepts

2. GSFC and MSFC Concepts:

Trade hoppers, rovers and other mobility options or combinations they might identify. This deserves a more complete review.

3. Assess technologies in the Technology Development Program for potential applicability and determine potential whether there are funding offsets. ESMD personnel will help identify technology projects that resulted from the ESAS activity.

4. The Mobility Project under the Technology Development Program should support trades on mobility designs including potential ties to later human missions. Examples include but are not limited to use of the mobility asset on subsequent missions, synergy with human mobility capability, etc. They should make recommendations on reliability, durability, and reparability, etc. factors.

5. Perform a power trade of MMRTGs vs. fuel cells (fuel cells tied to current automotive research focus if possible,) vs. other power for rovers. An MMRTG may already be available from SMD. Technology for the advanced RTG concepts should not be funded by this project in parallel with the Lander development.

6. In parallel to a project development of a mobility system, the NASA RLEP Office in conjunction with Centennial Challenges should consider conducting an external competition for a rover at ‘no cost to the government’, with the winning design allowed to fly with their Company/team/University logo on the rover, which would be photographed on the moon. They would be given top level requirements, constraints and resource allocations. Decision points for accepting the design and hardware will have to be carefully thought out between the RLEP Office and the Lander project.”

SpaceRef staff editor.