Status Report

NASA ARC Solicitation: American Student Moon Orbiter ASMO Concept

By SpaceRef Editor
July 2, 2008
Filed under , ,

Synopsis – Jul 01, 2008

General Information

Solicitation Number: N/A
Reference Number: ASMO-Request_for_Information
Posted Date: Jul 01, 2008
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Jul 01, 2008
Original Response Date: Sep 30, 2008
Current Response Date: Sep 30, 2008
Classification Code: A — Research and Development
NAICS Code: 611430 – Professional and Management Development Training

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Ames Research Center, JA:M/S 241-1, Moffett Field, CA 94035-1000


1.0 INTRODUCTION The NASA Office of Education supports projects that provide student learning experiences in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Additional information on NASA Education can be found in the NASA Education Strategic Coordination Framework at: .

The NASA Office of Education is currently considering the development of a distributed university-based, student-led satellite development initiative, the American Student Moon Orbiter (ASMO). This Request for Information (RFI) seeks input from appropriate officials and decision-makers from colleges, universities, and potential industry contributors with experience in university-level, student-led flight projects focusing on spaceflight satellite and/or payload development, payload integration, spacecraft and/or payload launch, mission operations, or scientific data analysis. Information sought includes opinion of and experience applicable to the feasibility of the effort (to include financial, technical, and educational elements); budget and financial expectations, realism of launch expectations, and the education and scientific merit. Responses to this RFI will assist NASA Education in determining the level of interest in participation, the perceived feasibility of the concept, the ability to provide funding, and implementation concepts or solutions. If a decision is made to proceed with the concept, information provided by the RFI will assist NASA in establishing requirements, resources, and evaluation criteria.

There are many factors and options to be considered prior to NASAs decision to proceed with this educational venture; and this RFI solicits ideas and feedback on the preliminary concepts. If NASA decides to proceed with the concept, the next step could be the release of a solicitation to attract and select university participants, and identify scientific and educational objectives.

Specific questions to be addressed are listed in Section 5 of this RFI.

2.0 MISSION OBJECTIVE AND GOAL The objective of ASMO is to provide NASA project and systems engineering oversight and coordinated mentoring to selected university student teams who would design, build, launch, operate, and analyze data for a lunar spacecraft and payload. NASA would make available controlled access to NASA engineers and other subject matter experts and may enable access to appropriate NASA facilities.

The university teams would be responsible for (1) direct and detailed project management, (2) design, build, testing, integration, brokering the launch, launch into lunar orbit, and (on-orbit and ground) operation of the ASMO spacecraft, (3) obtaining funding to support and manage these activities, and (4) identification, development, and monitoring of educational objectives ( at the elementary/secondary education, higher education, and informal education levels) and reporting progress toward meeting them.

Under the concept, the NASA/ASMO team would offer access to NASA subject matter experts through coordinated mentoring, facilitation of reviews at key decision points, and provision of one to two university workshops per year at participating NASA Centers. Please see the ASMO website at for further information on how this might work. The European Space Agency (ESA) has initiated a similar project: the European Student Moon Orbiter (ESMO). Having progressed into mission Phase A in 2006, ESMO is the latest in a series of end-to-end ESA sponsored student flight projects. Through preliminary discussions with NASA Education representatives, ESA representatives have expressed interest in potential collaboration between the ESMO and AMSO student missions. However, no formal agreement between NASA and ESA has been yet been established regarding potential collaboration or coordination of the efforts.

3.0 MISSION DESCRIPTION Payload capacity and parameters for the orbit will be determined by the student teams with guidance of NASA mentors. Possible payloads and lunar science objectives currently of interest to NASA include testing and relaying high bandwidth laser and radio communications protocols, characterizing the lunar dust environment, lunar gravity mapping, high-definition video, and 3-D imaging. The final scientific payloads would be determined, designed and built by the student teams.

The ASMO craft is conceived to be launched on an Enhanced Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) utilizing an Expendable Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring. NASA currently has no plans to provide a launch vehicle or support for the ASMO launch.

ITAR Note: All participants in the ASMO concept must ensure compliance with the U.S. Department of Commerces Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and the U.S. Department of States International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). For more information please see

4.0 MISSION APPROACH 4.1 NASA Would Provide

  • Concept development and Pre-Phase A project functions
  • Results of the payload design feasibility study
  • Request for Information to solicit public input
  • Lead university team selection
  • Top-level project and systems engineering oversight throughout the project
  • Controlled access to NASA mentors and other subject matter experts
  • Up to two university workshops per year at participating NASA Centers
  • Facilitation of design reviews and identification of Key Decision Points
  • Agency strategic communications including public outreach, education and solicitations
  • Roll-up NASA reporting of project progress and accomplishment of education objectives, results, and outcomes (elementary/secondary education, higher education, and informal education)

NOTE: NASA does not foresee providing direct funding to the universities or partners.

4.2 University Teams Would Provide

  • Launch Opportunity including launch vehicle and integration, and insurance
  • Project Management to include project documentation, documentation control, configuration control, procurement, finance, fundraising, and project communication
  • Systems Engineering
  • Mission Analysis to include simulations and orbital dynamics
  • Quality Assurance to include reliability, safety and mission assurance, and failure modes effects and analysis
  • Spacecraft to include thermal subsystem, structures subsystem, electrical subsystem, power subsystem, attitude and orbit control subsystem, mechanisms/deployable subsystem, communications subsystems, registration and ownership of the ASMO spacecraft, including negotiation for orbital position
  • Mission operations and supporting mission-unique hardware and ground activities
  • Assembly, Integration and Testing to include spacecraft testing, facilities, and spacecraft integration
  • Payload and Science Experiments including scientific data collection, transfer, analysis, and reporting
  • Ground Segment to include electrical ground support equipment (GSE) and mechanical GSE
  • IT Infrastructure
  • Flight Software including data collection and data transfer
  • Responsive reporting of education objectives, results, and outcomes (elementary/secondary education, higher education, and informal education)
  • Other efforts required for successful completion of the ASMO mission

4.3 University Team Structure Under the current concept, a single Level 1 university team and three Level 2 university teams would be selected by NASA to perform the following leadership roles:

  • Project Lead (Level-1)
  • Business Lead (Level-2)
  • Spacecraft/Systems Engineering Lead (Level-2)
  • Science/Payloads Lead (Level-2)

In addition, NASA will select an estimated 30 additional Level 3 student teams to conduct all aspects of the design, development, systems engineering and integration, testing, and operations of the spacecraft and the payload subsystems. The students will be responsible for the development and execution of comprehensive project and business management functions.

Various alternative approaches have been considered for the ASMO project organization and administration. For example, proposals could be obtained from university teams bidding for participation in specific sub-systems resulting in the selection of a prime and a sub-prime university team for each sub-system. In this approach NASA would designate a single university-based project manager, responsible for daily operations and ensuring execution of major milestones, deliverables, and project documentation. Another approach would be for universities to build alliances and organize themselves into fully or semi-comprehensive teams prior to developing their proposals and thus submit pre-packaged team proposals detailing their unique approach to covering all required subsystems and project functions across university lines.

These alternate approaches are not intended to suggest expectations or requirements on project management structure. Comments on alternative approaches to the ASMO project structure and management approach should be addressed in response to this RFI.

4.4 Funding Concept The university project participants would be responsible for costs and financial management for designing, building, testing, and integration of payloads and subsystems for the ASMO spacecraft as well as financial support for the launch, insurance, mission operations, and data collection and analysis. The university participants would also be responsible for performing detailed cost estimating and developing comprehensive business and education plans including a realistic budget, a financial control system, and education objectives.

NASA would support internal Agency costs associated with the services and activities described in section 4.1 above.

NASAs role in the final system integration and testing using NASAs facilities has not been determined.

4.5 Design Feasibility Study of an ASMO-like Spacecraft In December 2006, a NASA Collaborative Modeling for Parametric Assessment of Space Systems (COMPASS) team performed a design feasibility study of the ASMO spacecraft concept. The preliminary design concept of a spacecraft, generated during the course of this study, was intended purely to determine the feasibility of developing a spacecraft and payload under certain technical and cost constraints, and was not intended to influence or limit design thinking by the university teams. The COMPASS Study is a starting point from which the ASMO students could then perform their own design concept and feasibility studies. The American Student Moon Orbiter (ASMO) COMPASS Feasibility Study is available on the ASMO website at:


5.1 Content of RFI Response This is a Request for Information, not a Request for Proposals (RFP), and it does not imply that a solicitation will be forthcoming. NASA is not accepting proposals or bids to participate at this time.

Please note that there is a 20-page limit for your overall response (please refer to the RFI Response Template available on the ASMO website). Answers to the RFI questions must be received on the RFI Response Template provided on the ASMO website:

RFI responses must include: a. Name of the primary point of contact for the response b. Academic faculty or business title c. Institution or organization affiliation d. Email address e. Phone f. Identification of other key individuals who collaborated on the RFI response g. A brief summary (300 word limit) description of previous relevant experience in small spacecraft and subsystem design and engineering, space flight payloads and experiments, lunar exploration or other lunar expertise. (Note: This is not intended as a mini or preliminary proposal.)

5.2 RFI Questions NASA is requesting responses to the following questions from appropriate officials and decision-makers from colleges, universities, and potential industry contributors with experience in university-level, student-led flight projects (focusing on spaceflight satellite and/or payload development, payload integration, spacecraft and/or payload launch, mission operations, or scientific data analysis):

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages to a university-level, student-led concept such as this?

2. Academic participants will be required to provide funding necessary for design, development, testing, evaluation, integration, launch, operation, and analysis of the ASMO spacecraft. NASA would cover the costs of the services described in Section 4.1 above.

  • Is this a feasible financial approach? Please explain.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of this financial approach?

3. What educational (elementary/secondary education, higher education, and informal education) objectives are achievable through a project of this type? Can the objectives be assessed, evaluated, and measured throughout the mission development and implementation process? How can the educational objectives be maximized?

4. What challenges might be addressed by this project that are unique to a lunar mission versus a low-earth orbit mission? Can the challenges be realistically addressed? Please explain.

5. What project management approaches are best suited to this effort? (Refer to Section 4.3 of this RFI.) Responses can include diagrams in an Appendix following the body of the response. (Note: Contents of the Appendix will not be counted in the 20-page limit).

6. After selection of lead universities, what is the estimated amount of time needed to complete necessary pre-launch tasks and activities and have an ASMO spacecraft ready for launch? What timelines would you recommend for such a project?

7. Do you have any questions or other comments to share about the ASMO concept?

5.3 How to Respond to this RFI Visit and download the ASMO RFI Template.

Fill out the template with the following guidelines:

  • Completed RFI response must not exceed 20 pages in length Please inc lude diagrams and charts in an Appendix following the body of the response. Do not count the appendix against the 20-page limit
  • Use single-spaced, 12-point, Times New Roman font
  • The following file naming convention should be used: RFI_firstinitial_lastname.doc For example: Angela Rodriguez would name her file RFI_A_Rodriguez.doc
  • Authorized file formats include: Adobe Acrobat versions 6 – 8 (.pdf) Microsoft Word versions 2000 – 2007 (.doc and .docx)

Responses are requested by 4:30 PM Pacific Standard Time, September 30, 2008. RFI submissions will be accepted as email attachments only. All responses must be sent to, with ASMO RFI Response in the subject line.

An email confirmation of receipt from NASA will be sent within a one-week period to the designated point of contact.


7.0 DISCLAIMER NASA will not publicly disclose proprietary information obtained during this solicitation. To the full extent that it is protected pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations, information identified by a respondent as Proprietary or Confidential will be kept confidential.

It is emphasized that this RFI is for planning and information purposes only and is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into any contractual agreement, nor will the Government pay for information solicited. Based on the availability of funding the results of this RFI will be used to advise NASA decision-making and development of possible follow-on efforts. Follow-on efforts will also depend on the availability of funding. Respondents will not be notified of the results of the evaluation. This Request for Information is subject to review or cancellation at any time.

Point of Contact

Name: Beatrice Morales
Title: Grant Officer
Phone: 650-604-2074
Fax: 650-604-0932

Name: Sharon L. Connolly
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 650-604-6927
Fax: 650-604-0932

SpaceRef staff editor.