Status Report

NASA Advisory Council Meeting Minutes 10-11 Sep 2002 – Part 2

By SpaceRef Editor
September 25, 2002
Filed under ,

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

Response to Research Requirements

Mr. William Gerstenmaier discussed the Space Station Program Office response to the research requirements. The first step was to compare the requirements with the existing capability. Key resource drivers are the upmass, middeck lockers, and crew time. By fiscal year, Mr. Gerstenmaier showed everything that counts against the upmass: the propellant requirement; crew support requirement; assembly elements; pressurized logistics and maintenance requirements; unpressurized logistics and maintenance requirements; pressurized science; and unpressurized science. In FY03 and FY04, the predominant drivers are the truss masses. The flight rate study showed what could be available, by year, to launch these requirements. Three Russian Progresses and four Shuttle flights per year do not meet the total upmass requirement. The biggest excess of requirement over capability is in FY04. This study was used to specify what Shuttle flight rate is needed to meet the requirements.

In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that the FY04 requirement includes the IP elements. He showed how much of the science requirements could be satisfied with four Shuttle flights per year plus the Ariane Transfer Vehicle (ATV). Mr. Gerstenmaier also showed how the surpluses could be balanced to provide the research requirements. Some maintenance can be deferred to allow more capability for science. However, with only four flights per year, the backlog of work continues to grow. With five flights per year, the backlog can be worked down and more science can be satisfied. This approach has been put forward in the budget submission.

In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier indicated that the study reflects the science and technology requirements, but it does not show growing beyond the Core Complete capability, e.g., Node 3. The program has been spared for the existing program with current technology; it does not include a new technology program, but there will be “smart buys” of new technology as available. Ms. Kicza added that there are dollars in her program for technology that will improve crew capabilities. More flights help with the upmass with a three-person crew. Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that the Assembly Sequence update will be issued this week. It incorporates the JEM slip, accelerates the COF, accelerates the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator, and accelerates the AMS. Utilization resource accommodations are currently in work. Even with only four flights per year, the Station capabilities will better balance with the science requirements. This change request goes through 2007 with a baseline of specific dates. The IPs are working very aggressively with the Program Office on the Assembly Sequence dates.

In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that the only requirement from the Russians is for Progress launches. The centrifuge is still in the 2006/2007 timeframe. Before NASA will agree to the slip in the Japanese module, there will be firm agreements on the centrifuge availability. NASA will continue pressure for centrifuge delivery in April 2007. In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that the study did not include any purchased or negotiated hours for Russian crew time. With respect to the Express pallet, initial procurement steps (e.g., synopsis issuance) have been taken.

Mr. Gerstenmaier discussed some enhancements within the current program. A Crew Time Steering Team has been formed to provide ISS Program level guidance on crew time usage. It is re-defining the crew work day, institutionalizing the crew “Task List,” and is encouraging a “soft commit” for payloads that allows research over-planning and uses bonus time on orbit. There is a fairly large error bar in crew time availability projections. With the new techniques, about 27 hours per week (excluding Russian crew time) may be available. In the middeck area, the Program is looking at more effective ways of packing and positioning cargo. In addition, the Program is considering using Spacehab to provide additional pressurized cargo. In the power/thermal area, NASA is increasing the Shuttle avionics/cabin air thermal rejection capability to fly the extra middeck space. The Middeck Optimization Study is focusing on specific trades necessary to optimize all aspects of middeck availability. Because of the truss launches next year, there will not be immediate gains in 2003, but there should be gains in 2004.

Discussions with the IPs regarding potential option paths are beginning and progress will be reported to the Multilateral Control Board in October. The Program will continue to fund enabling technologies and hardware that support future option paths, e.g., long-lead items for Node 3 and a regenerative Environmentally Closed Life Support System (ECLSS).

The issue of IP crew is part of the option path discussions. In response to a question, Mr. Gerstenmaier noted that two Spacehab flights are on the manifest today. In terms of funding, the ISS Program can accommodate the ISS costs associated with five flights per year within the ISS budget; however, the additional Shuttle flight must be accommodated in the Office of Space Flight (OSF) budget. Mr. Gerstenmaier stated that he fully supports the idea of at least one of the crew serving in a “chief scientist” capacity. Dr. Lucid indicated that next week, Mr. O’Keefe will announce the “science officer” on the next increment, and there will be a science officer on all future increments. With respect to crew time, the scheduled time is based upon 100% success for experiments. If some risk is accepted, e.g., an 80%-90% success rate, more crew time could be available for research. Mr. Gerstenmaier provided an annotated copy of his report from June.

Dr. Kennel initiated a brief discussion on issues that would be highlighted in the council session later in the afternoon. Some questions were: Are we satisfied with the criteria that were used to prioritize the ReMaP results? Is an information base emerging that will enable a decision beyond Core Complete? Are there gaps? Dr. Tetrault noted that ReMaP said that the ISS as currently planned should not be characterized as a science platform. He suggested that the NAC address this comment.

Sen. Glenn suggested that the NAC highlight the question: Where do we stand on CRV? Mr. Gregory indicated that these issues are being worked and are not considered an obstacle. Other questions are: Has there been adequate planning for serendipity? What kind of rapid response capability is available for a new scientific objective? Dr. Zoloth indicated that she had circulated a paper on the ethical issues in the prioritization of NASA’s science mission and a paper on the mission and meaning of the ISS. Dr. Kennel noted that the key interdisciplinary questions should be looked at from this point of view. Mr. McDaniel commented that NASA must do a better job of communicating to the public.

Dr. Mortazavian suggested the question: What fundamental key questions can actually be answered within five to ten years? Dr. Logsdon suggested that NAC could reflect on the process over the past 18 months and express a positive appreciation of it.

Mr. Gregory noted that NASA has not only reprioritized the OBPR research, it has reprioritized across the Agency. With respect to the human presence in space, Dr. Baldwin observed there has been a lot of thinking in the science community about this issue. In the health sciences that affect human presence in space and the linkages to fundamental cell and molecular biology, NASA is well on its way to fulfilling the critical roadmap. At some point in the future the NAC should understand what the critical roadmap is and should get a presentation on the subject. Significant strides have been made. Dr. Kennel indicated that should the NAC perceive a convergence in the planning of the Core Complete and how to go from there to enhancements, it would be time to look at the key questions and judge whether the questions and issues are phrased in a fundamental way for science and the public at large.

Overview of JPL Activities

Dr. Charles Elachi discussed the exploration challenges for the next decade and beyond. One of the challenges is planetary communications. The Deep Space Network (DSN) does this routinely, but the strategies for tomorrow’s exploration includes advanced RF communications, pioneering optical communications, and networking the space communication assets. Another key challenge is propulsion. Future missions will require lots of propulsion. Chemical propulsion is almost at its limit. JPL is starting to look at solar electrical propulsion/aerocapture and nuclear electrical propulsion. Aeroassist uses the atmosphere at the destination to provide propellantless propulsion. Another key challenge is navigation—interplanetary navigation demands extraordinary accuracy. At the destination, the entry, descent, and landing present another challenge. Each planet has a different atmosphere and there is a wide diversity for landing and in situ measurement. Another issue is power. Advanced power technologies are required to fully study the solar system’s natural laboratories. In order to look at potential life around other planets, there are a number of challenges—extremely accurate mirrors or extremely precise, formation-flying spacecraft. Fundamental physics studies to understand the universe require extreme accuracies. Exploring our own planet also offers major challenges in terms of sensitivity and accuracy measurements.

Dr. Elachi reviewed JPL’s history. In this decade, JPL is heading more toward in situ exploration, sample return, and a permanent presence in the solar system. Fourteen JPL spacecraft are now operating across the solar system. NASA and JPL are establishing a permanent presence around Mars. The next two years (2003-2004) will be the busiest period in JPL’s history. In terms of technology and engineering, JPL is focusing its effort to be a world leader in key areas critical to deep space exploration: end-to-end system engineering and project management; autonomous mobility; deep space communications; deep space navigation and highly stable clocks; extreme precision formation flying; high precision spaceborne systems in optical to sub-millimeter; and active sensors for mapping and positioning. The teaming among NASA, JPL, and Caltech provides unique capabilities.

In response to a question, Dr. Elachi noted that going from a few very large missions to twelve to fifteen smaller projects presents challenges. On the one hand, it provides more opportunities for more people. The challenge is how to transfer knowledge to a large number of people so that they don’t make the same mistakes. An institutional framework has been put in place to help make this happen. JPL puts high priority on reaching out to schools and school children to make science appealing. JPL has started an alliance with the California State university system, which provides 10% of the teachers. In response to a question, Dr. Elachi noted that rather than faster, better, cheaper, the focus is on how to do the job better while being conscious of cost. There has been a lot of dialogue with DOD and DARPA on joint technology demonstrations.

Mars Program

Dr. Firouz Naderi, the Mars Program Manager at JPL, provided a brief history of the Mars Program and the missions for this decade. There is an opportunity to go to Mars every 26 months with acceptable energy. Because of inclination, opportunities vary in launch energy and arrival velocity. Landing on Mars is among one of the hardest things that space science does. Dr. Naderi reviewed the early years of Mars exploration (Mariner and Viking). After a decade of hiatus, the Mars Program was revived in 1992. There have been “highs” and “lows” in the Mars Surveyor Program. Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) (1996) has been a remarkable science success and is now in its third extended mission. There were two Mars mission failures in 1998.

In the aftermath of the 1998 mission failures, NASA chartered a senior independent team to assess the root cause of the failures and make recommendations to get the Program back on track. In 2000, NASA embarked on the current Mars Exploration Program (MEP). The science strategy for the MEP has come to be known as “follow the water.” It is the common thread to understand the potential for life, characterize the past climate, understand the geological processes, and develop the technology necessary for eventual human exploration. The strategy for implementation is “seek, in situ, and sample.”

With opportunities every 26 months, the MEP consists of Mars Odyssey (currently orbiting Mars); NASA MER, ESA Mars Express, and Japanese Nozomi Orbiter in 2003; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) in 2005; ASI-NASA Telesat and French Premier-07 science orbiter, and French-led Netlanders in 2007; and NASA Science Mobile Laboratory, NASA Marsat, and ASI-NASA SAR science orbiter in 2009. In addition, NASA will have competed Scout missions in 2005 and 2007. Currently, the international collaboration with the Italians (ASI) is under re-consideration because Italy may drop out due to funding issues. The French orbiter in 2007 may either move to 2009 or drop out.

Mars Program Assessment and Future Planning

Dr. Orlando Figueroa, the Mars Program Director at NASA Headquarters, discussed the Program assessment and the planning for the next decade. Mars is the first planet for which we can realistically assess its habitability in space and time. MGS was a very successful mission in the last decade. Mars Odyssey has confirmed abundant water ice in the upper few feet of large areas at high latitudes and has discovered a variety of surface types. MER are in Assembly, Test, and Launch Operations (ATLO). All resources remain very tight with no room for major problems or surprises. The Mars Express mission has some challenges but is currently on schedule. The US components have been delivered. MRO just successfully completed is mission Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and is moving into the development phase.

Twenty-four proposals have been received for the Mars Scouts. It is likely that the two Italian missions may disappear. The top five issues are: the tightness of the reserves on MER; the technology readiness level (TRL) of instrumentation for the 2009 Mars Smart Lander (MSL); the ASI commitment to SHARAD and G. Marconi; the CNES commitment to the 2007 Premier mission; and the robustness of the telecomm and data management infrastructure. The Program is looking at options other than sample return in the next decade: more reconnaissance; exploring the local diversity; life inference; and subsurface exploration. The Solar System Exploration Decadal Report was highly supportive of continued Mars exploration. The top priorities were consistent with the present Program strategy, architecture, and this decade’s plans. The MEPAG and the MERT have provided review and input for the next decade planning. The Program receives review and advice from the SScAC, the SSES, and OMB/OSTP. In response to a question, Dr. Figueroa indicated that in the event Italy drops its mission, he would use the resources that were allocated to G. Marconi on a NASA relay satellite.

Tour of Mars 03 Rover Assembly

Dr. Chris Jones provided an overview of the MER prior to the tour. MER will look for minerals as proxy for past water. Twin rovers will be delivered to two sites on Mars. Launch dates are in May and June 2003. Landing dates will be in January 2004. Dr. Jones showed an animated film depicting the launch, landing, and operation of MER. MER was selected as a part of the Mars Program restructuring two years ago. Shortly after the project started, the mass and volume began to erode, requiring design modifications. The design modification resulted in major schedule impact. The pressure on schedule was addressed with added workforce (increased cost). In response to a question, Dr. Jones noted that the two biggest threats are the airbag and the parachute. At this point, there is very little that can be done to improve the reliability. If the Program does not have a parachute, the Rover will not be able to fly. The NAC toured the Mars 03 Rover Assembly area.

After the tour, the NAC meeting adjourned for the day.

Wednesday, September 11

NASA and Commercial Innovation Market-Driven Commercial Research

Before beginning his presentation, Mr. Mark Uhran, Director for Research Integration in OBPR, reviewed the history of requirements development for the ISS. He emphasized that it was a sound and well-documented process. Mr. Uhran discussed the Commercial Space Center (CSC) Product Development Program and ISS commercial development preparations. CSCs are non-profit organizations, hosted by universities, which lead consortia of commercial, academic, and/or government entities in space research and development projects. They are established through cooperative agreements. NASA provides the base funding (about $1 million per year) and industry provides cash and in-kind investments. CSCs provide an interface to industry and communicate the benefits of space to the commercial sector. Presently, there are about 15 centers distributed across the country. The CSCs are market-driven and flight allocations are based on commercial selection criteria. The ratio of private to public investment is the most important figure of merit. This puts the selection decision in the capital market. Mr. Uhran summarized the budget for the program and presented some other statistics. The budget represents about 5% of the budget for OBPR.

In the original President’s budget submission, there was a proposal to phase the CSCs out; however, in the last iteration, there was a decision not to do this. Although it appears that the program has been augmented in the latest action, there actually has not been an increase in program funding—it is going back to the levels in FY02 (about $30 million per year). The average leveraged value is about 1.5 (industry) to 1 (NASA). A large proportion (36%) of the workforce is university students. The affiliate level has been fairly constant at about 150. Flight activity has significantly declined over 1995 to 2000, but over the past couple of years, the rate has begun to climb. The success rate is about 90%. Industry partners have agreed to take a higher risk to reduce cost and schedule by an order of magnitude, and university students are able to build highly reliable and useful flight hardware.

Since 1995, nine CSCs have been closed. During that timeframe, NASA has formed seven new ones. This turnover comes from the external reviews. Mr. Uhran discussed four specific experimental programs: Protein Crystal Growth Diffraction Resolution Improvements; the Antibody Productivity Experiment; Gene Transfer Experiments; and the Zeolite Production Experiment. In response to a question, Mr. Uhran noted that a dominant factor in all of the microgravity experiments is a change in morphology at the molecular level due to the absence of gravity. The NAC discussed the issue of ReMaP priority versus level of investment. Mr. McDaniel commented that the program appeared to offer a very good return for a small investment, as well as an excellent opportunity for university students. Dr. Logsdon noted that on the basis of pure scientific merit, some of the research areas would be relatively low, but these programs are market-driven.

Even ReMaP acknowledged that there are considerations other than scientific merit that apply to the commercial program. Dr. Zoloth added that the ReMaP recognized that the commercial discourse should be separate from the scientific discourse. Mr. Uhran noted that the ISS offers a tremendous opportunity for engineering research. One of the CSCs works with industry to identify testbeds (remote sensing, power generation, etc.). Once the launch opportunity is clearly there, companies don’t want NASA money to develop testbeds-they will privately develop testbeds in exchange for access to space and a place on the ISS.

Mr. Uhran reviewed the management standards and selection process that have been put in place for the program. The program produces a series of reports and other information, which are available on the Web site: Reliable access to space is the rate-limiting step to commercial research. Also, industry must be able to rely on consistent government policies regarding commercial space, including allocation of flight opportunities. The Commercial Space Act of 1998 spurred ISS commercial development preparations. NASA responded with release of an ISS Commercial Development Plan. Three reports were delivered to Congress, as requested in the Act. An independent market study reported that in the long term, the return on investment is there; however, in the short term it is not, except for controversial areas such as advertising, entertainment, tourism, etc. A Multilateral Commercialization Group was chartered to develop guidelines for ISS commercial activities. Active management of the ISS “brand,” or image, is necessary. The program is looking at public service sponsorships that can be pursued in a way to enhance the image of the ISS. In this type of sponsorship, the private sector associates itself with the NASA and the ISS image.

Dr. Swain commented that for $30 million, this is a good payoff. If it could be done, the potential societal benefits should be estimated, and this should be part of the proposal process. Dr. Trimble agreed that this is a very good program for the amount of funds allocated. Sen. Glenn noted that showing a significant societal benefit for such a modest investment would impress the Congress. Dr. Zoloth commented that the commercial sponsorship aspect should be pursued. In response to a question, Mr. Uhran indicated that none of the businesses in the portfolio were in the dot com market, and there have not been any changes in the investment rates due to the downturn in the economy. Large corporations are putting a very, very small, “gate-keeping” amount of funds the program. The critical factor in commercial sponsorship is active and professional involvement.

Dr. Kennel commented that it is very important that NASA be clear in the difference in motivation between the scientific program and the commercial program. Because of the nature of venture capital initiatives, we cannot expect success in every area. This program is constructed in a way similar to other ventures outside the space arena. Also, the commercial program provides significant value for students. The NAC recognized the fundamental limiting factor of access to space. The request for firm policy on both sides is not unreasonable. Market value is attached to the fraction of time that NASA allocates to the commercial endeavor. NAC endorsed the formulation of clear policies based upon the separation of motivations associated with the scientific program and the commercial program. Dr. Baldwin commented that the BPRAC made a recommendation to put more involvement at the level of the Administrator and his subordinates to ensure a high level of integrity for the program. Mr. Gregory noted that the NAC exhibited excitement and enthusiasm about this program, rather than the doubt and questioning that was predominant on the previous day. Dr. Mortazavian commented that on the basis of the presentation, the science in the commercial endeavors appeared to be solid.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4]

SpaceRef staff editor.