Status Report

NASA Exploration Systems Interim Strategy

By SpaceRef Editor
December 2, 2004
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NASA Exploration Systems Interim Strategy

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A Message from the Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems

August 2004

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate is a new organization within NASA dedicated to creating a constellation of new capabilities, supporting technologies, and foundational research that enables sustained and affordable human and robotic exploration.

Our strategy for creating these new capabilities, supporting technologies, and foundational research flows from four overarching principles. Those principles are:

Corporate Focus

  • Advancing the Vision for Space Exploration in tandem with NASA’s Aeronautics Research, Science, and Space Operations Mission Directorates

Focused, Prioritized Requirements

  • Targeted to demonstrate sustainable and affordable success in human and robotic exploration

Spiral Transformation

  • Developing capabilities in stages (spirals) with evolving, modular components
  • Maturing technologies for inclusion in future spirals—research and technology that will transform spirals without placing program execution at risk

Management Rigor

  • Emphasizing time-phased priorities, cost performance, and personnel development
  • Supported by a sound acquisition strategy that promotes innovation

Based on these principles, we derive specific program tasks targeted to build new capabilities, and engage in essential research and development. This process of flowing from our strategy to program tasks is iterative. Like our overall efforts, the strategy-to-task process is spiral in nature in that, through repeated analysis of costs, performance options, trends, and results—including progress in developing specific capabilities and progress in maturing essential technologies—we spiral towards the deployment of new, transformational capabilities in a manner that is effective and affordable.

Specific capabilities and supporting research and technology development will evolve over time. Presently, our organization has been tasked with developing a Crew Exploration Vehicle that will be used by astronauts to travel in space. We are also developing nuclear technologies that will enable long-duration space travel and evaluating plans for a new capability that may service, repair, and eventually de-orbit the Hubble Space Telescope. We are conducting research to ensure the health and safety of astronauts during long-duration space exploration far from Earth. We are actively engaged in promoting new approaches that will substantially involve industry and universities in these efforts. Our Centennial Challenges Program, which offers prizes to stimulate innovation, is one example of a novel approach.

We are now in the process of melding our programs with those previously managed by NASA’s Office of Biological and Physical Research, including research and development efforts focused on crew health and life-support systems, countermeasures, and radiation protection. By merging our organizations, we will work together to address strategic technical challenges and minimize the health and safety risks for the crew of any space vehicle. Also, the Agency will be developing an updated Agencywide Strategic Plan. We will update our plans as our organization matures.

Craig Steidle
Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems

SpaceRef staff editor.