Status Report

NASA Exploration Systems Enterprise Request for Information

By SpaceRef Editor
April 21, 2004
Filed under , , ,
NASA Exploration Systems Enterprise Request for Information

Synopsis – Apr 21, 2004

Focus Areas for RFI – Posted on Apr 21, 2004

General Information

Solicitation Number: RFI04212004
Posted Date: Apr 21, 2004
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Apr 21, 2004
Response Date: May 20, 2004
Classification Code: A — Research and Development

Contracting Office Address
NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Procurement Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL 35812

This RFI is being processed out of the NASA Office of Exploration Systems, Acquisition Strategy and Business Formulation Division (Code TB), 300 E Street SW, Washington DC 20546-0001 in lieu of the MSFC contracting address referenced above.


With the announcement of the Vision for U.S. Space Exploration, NASA has formed a new Exploration Systems Enterprise that will be charged with development of systems to be used in the exploration of the moon, Mars, and other destinations. The Exploration Systems Enterprise is responsible for developing and demonstrating the strategies and systems that will allow human and advanced robotic exploration of other worlds through the use of innovative approaches, new vehicles, and breakthrough technologies. Consistent with the National Space Exploration Policy, the NASA Strategic Plan, and the Vision for Space Exploration, the Exploration Systems Enterprise will:

Support Research at Key Research Destinations: The development of exploration strategies, systems, and technologies will be guided by requirements for conducting research at key destinations in the search for habitable environments and life. These destinations include, but are not limited to, the Moon, the planet Mars, the moons of Jupiter and other outer planets, and deep space telescopes that will search for planets outside our solar system.

Enable Sustainable Exploration: Exploration architectures and vehicles will be developed with the goal of enabling sustainable, affordable, and flexible exploration of the solar system.

Employ Humans and Robots: Exploration Systems will design architectures and missions that use humans and robots in partnership, leveraging the capabilities of each where most useful.

Use the Moon as a Testing Ground for Mars and Beyond: The Exploration Systems Enterprise, working with the Lunar Exploration and Mars Exploration Themes, will use robotic and human missions to further science, and to develop and test new approaches, technologies, and systems, including the use of lunar and other space resources, to support sustained human space exploration of Mars and other destinations.

Employ Sound Management Philosophy: The Exploration Systems Enterprise will be guided by a philosophy that ensures that operators and technologists work together to enable the leveraging of technology research and development. Technology will be matured prior to development through performance demonstration. A disciplined Strategy-to-Task-to-Technology process will be instituted for purposes of requirements definition. Rigorous trade study analysis, utilizing modeling and simulation, will be performed by operators and technologists jointly. A focused program management process, using best practices such as earned value management, will be at the core of this enterprise. Work Closely With Customers and Partners: The Exploration Systems Enterprise will work closely with NASA’s Space Architect, Space Science Enterprise, Biological and Physical Research Enterprise, Space Flight Enterprise, other government agencies, potential international partners, academia, and industry in the development of new exploration strategies, architectures, vehicles, systems, and technologies.

A key focal point for these guidelines and objectives will be the Project Constellation systems development initiative. In broad terms, Project Constellation is one of the critical acquisition programs being developed under the Exploration Systems Enterprise to execute the national vision for Moon and Mars exploration. More specifically, Project Constellation will evolve around the core Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) that will carry human crews from the Earth’s surface to orbit. When coupled with transfer stages, landing vehicles, and other space transportation architecture elements, the CEV will serve as part of the architecture that supports humans on voyages to the moon and Mars.

Along with the CEV and in-space transportation systems, Project Constellation will include development of supporting surface and in-space systems such as ground and in-space communication systems, robotic investigators and assistants, surface mobility and habitation systems, maintenance and science instrumentation, mission control capabilities, launch vehicles, and Earth-based ground infrastructure. Considered in its entirety, “Project Constellation” refers to the complete system-of-systems required for human and human/robotic exploration activities on the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Systems development in Project Constellation will be integrated with ongoing efforts in Project Prometheus, which was constituted to support technical development to advance space nuclear reactor, power conversion, radioisotope power systems, and electric propulsion technologies for robotic science missions, with the first identified mission for these technologies being the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) mission. With the advent of the Vision for U.S. Space Exploration, Project Prometheus has been directed to examine nuclear systems that can also enable human exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond. These systems could potentially use nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP), multi-megawatt nuclear electric propulsion (NEP), or a combination of systems. Additionally, highly energetic robotic missions (with high delta V propulsion requirements) may also require these technologies. Human exploration missions requirements could also include the need for high-power, all weather, day and night, electrical power generation for surface applications. Surface power applications could include power for planetary habitats, in-situ resource utilization, mobility, science laboratories and instruments, and drilling systems.

Acquisition Strategy

Because it is not realistic to define all architecture elements precisely at this time, the Exploration Systems Enterprise will formulate its acquisition strategy for human and robotic exploration of the moon and Mars into an integrated set of sequential acquisition programs called spirals. The initial spiral will be structured based on a well defined end-state, specific requirements, current technologies, manageable risks, an executable budget, and knowledge gained through lessons learned from prior missions. Currently, Spiral 1 for Project Constellation will develop a test vehicle in 2008, an unmanned Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in 2011 and a first manned CEV flight demonstration in 2014, in addition to the development of systems required to support initial human and robotic missions to the moon.

The development of the requirements and starting point for the next spiral development effort, Spiral 2, will be based on the findings, demonstrated risks, and other outcomes occurring during Spiral 1 development. Requirements and capabilities desired for Spiral 2 development will also be based on a robust technologies maturation program. This program will be targeting the maturation of new or possible breakthrough capabilities for potential inclusion in the Spiral 2 or subsequent spirals. Subsequent spirals will evolve based on successful deployment of previous spirals, new capabilities, maturation of new technologies and scientific discoveries. This will allow NASA to respond flexibly to new opportunities while avoiding costly redesign.

Each on-going development stage, or “spiral”, will incorporate technologies that are then ready for in-space applications. Accordingly, future spirals will incorporate new technologies. In each case, new technologies will be considered for incorporation into the acquisition strategy for that spiral based on a robust risk model. This risk model will ensure that new technologies are incorporated within in-space systems only after extensive analysis of potential benefits, costs and risks.

The Exploration Systems Enterprise’s acquisition strategy will encourage the use of open systems architectures that facilitate upgrade and augmentation, and that enable interoperability between systems developed by different contractors. This will allow for the infusion of new technologies whenever they are available, while avoiding costly redesign. For example, modular components can be substituted at minimum cost as new technology matures or obsolescence occurs. This acquisition approach will also allow for a testing and integration schedule that is flexible and efficient.

RFI Guidelines

White papers are invited that address initial challenges facing Project Constellation and Project Prometheus in general, and the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) in particular. Enclosed are the key focus area, issues, and suggested white paper topics. White papers that examine one or more of the topics are invited. Papers that address other important aspects (in a manner consistent with the information requested below) are also welcome. Viable white papers should be consistent with the January 14, 2004, U.S. Space Exploration Vision, as well as with generally accepted laws of physics. Innovative approaches—including novel technologies and systems concepts—are welcome, but should be consistent with advances that are ‘reasonably achievable’ in supporting the established program milestones. Crew Exploration Vehicle herein means the system or systems that may provide basic crew transportation from earth to LEO and beyond. CEV functionality nominally includes the crew earth ascent, life support, habitation, maneuvering and propulsion, navigation, and earth entry, descent and landing capabilities required to carry out a lunar exploration mission.

White papers will be reviewed by evaluation teams that draw on senior officials from the Exploration Systems Enterprise, other NASA Enterprises, and NASA Centers. For this RFI, no awards will be granted. But in a series of NASA Research Announcements (NRAs), Requests for Proposals, and other contracting vehicles to be released following this RFI, the Exploration Systems Enterprise will give innovative teams the opportunity to extend their efforts into funded concept definition, technology maturation, and development activities.

All documents should be delivered in an electronic format using Microsoft Word. All documents shall be delivered electronically to the following location:

Papers should be delivered to the following Focus Areas: Design Principles, Objectives, and Guidelines; Crosscutting Design Drivers and Architecture Elements; and Program Management, Acquisition, and Interfaces. Each submission will receive an electronic notification of a successful upload.

Any information obtained as a result of this RFI is intended to be used by the Government on a non-attribution basis for program planning and acquisition strategy development. Providing data/information that is limited or restricted for use by the Government for that purpose would be of very little value and such restricted/limited data/information is not solicited. By submitting information in response to this RFI, submitters of such information impliedly consent to the release and dissemination of submitted information to any Government or non-Government entity to which NASA releases and disseminates the information for review. Review may be performed by multi-disciplined review teams. Review teams may be comprised of Government personnel from NASA’s Exploration Systems Enterprise, other NASA Enterprises, NASA Centers, and/or other Government agencies. Moreover, review teams may include third parties, such as contractor personnel who support NASA. As such, to the extent that any information submitted in response to this RFI is marked as or construed to be proprietary or business-sensitive, submitters are hereby notified (a) about the potentiality that such information may be disclosed to third parties and (b) that submission of information in response to this RFI constitutes consent to such handling and disclosure of submitted information. This RFI is being used to obtain information for planning purposes only and the Government does not presently intend to award a contract at this time. As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. This RFI is subject to FAR 52.215-3.

Point of Contact

Name: Mark Stiles

Title: Chief, Acq. Strategy & Bus. Formulation (Code TB)

Phone: (256) 544-0318

Fax: (256) 544-6062


SpaceRef staff editor.