Status Report

NASA Planetary Science New Frontiers 5 Announcement of Opportunity Status

By SpaceRef Editor
October 1, 2020
Filed under ,

Dear Colleague:


The NASA Science Mission Directorate (SMD) has released a Community Announcement on as Special Notice under Notice ID NNH20ZDA016L concerning its intention to solicit investigations for the New Frontiers 5 (NF5) Announcement of Opportunity. NASA has not approved the issuance of the NF5 Announcement of Opportunity(AO); however, it is time to begin thinking ahead to the release of the draft AO through the NASA Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System (NSPIRES) at 


This email does not obligate NASA to issue the NF5 AO and solicit proposals. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this emailed community announcement are incurred completely at the submitter’s own risk. 


One of the challenges we all face when preparing for an AO is that the work everyone does, including at NASA Headquarters, is largely invisible outside of one’s immediate team. The Planetary Science Division (PSD) is sensitive to the fact that the contents of the AO have significant impacts on your workload and your mission concept. For these reasons, one of the goals for the NF5 AO is increased collaboration and communication with the community. To this end, the PSD asked the National Academies’ Committee on Astrobiology and Planetary Science (CAPS) to weigh in on the mission theme list for NF5. CAPS recently released its report, which is available at this link ( SMD places great importance on the CAPS report and respects their role as the “keepers” of the Decadal Survey. Currently, we are considering their recommendations and plan to make a decision on those recommendations no later than this fall. 


As usual, the plan is to release a draft AO approximately one year before the final AO is released. Experience has shown that this is too late in the process to significantly influence either the AO or your proposals. As a result, comments on the draft AO usually result in tweaks rather than major changes. The NF5 team seeks to engage earlier with the community so that there is time to discuss the content of the AO and, just as importantly, time for Headquarters to debate the implementation of your ideas. 


There are some major AO requirements that you simply must know as soon as possible. In some cases, adjustments to these requirements, such as extending the launch readiness date, can make a mission feasible (or not). PSD wants to finalize and share these major requirements ahead of the draft AO and wants to give you a chance to advocate for adjustments that may dictate the feasibility of your mission concept. 


All of the above requires collaboration and communication earlier than has been done in the past and a more structured engagement plan. Our engagement plan includes the following for the NF5 AO:


First, share major AO requirements, such as cost cap, launch readiness date, list of allowable mission themes, availability of radioisotope power systems, etc., in draft form in early November 2020 and invite feedback before they are finalized. Conversations at various assessment group meetings will be important, so I encourage the assessment groups to add the NF5 AO to their agendas and to invite the NF5 team to speak at an assessment group’s public meeting.


Second, share the near final form of the major requirements in March 2021 (estimate). The Planetary Science Division will host a virtual town hall to discuss the rationale driving them. Additional information on the content of the draft AO will be shared at this town hall.


Third, release of the complete draft AO for comment in October 2021 (estimate). I encourage the assessment groups to put the draft NF5 AO on their agendas and to invite the NF5 team to discuss and receive feedback publicly again.  


The NF5 AO point of contact is Curt Niebur, Email:



Lori S. Glaze, Ph.D., Director, Planetary Science Division, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Washington, DC 20546-0001.


Technical Note: A copy of this email and status updates, e.g., draft major requirements, will be available on NSPIRES posted under Solicitation Number: NNH20ZDA016L.


SpaceRef staff editor.