Status Report

NASA Releases Station and Shuttle Utilization Reinvention (SSUR) Final Report

By SpaceRef Editor
December 9, 2003
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As the United States portion of the International Space Station (ISS) nears completion, NASA
must optimize the use of that unique facility for world-class research. NASA realizes that the
Agency must ensure that the very best processes are in place to enable the cutting edge research
that will be accomplished on the ISS.

NASA’s Associate Administrators for the Office of Biological and Physical Research (OBPR)
and the Office of Space Flight (OSF) have taken specific steps to facilitate the conduct of world
class research on the ISS and Shuttle. In 2002, NASA initiated an International Space Station
Utilization Management Concept Development Team Study to develop recommendations on
how to best manage the science and research utilization of ISS. That team proposed establishing
a nongovernmental organization, specifically a non-profit institute (the ISS Research Institute
[ISSRI]), to perform leadership for ISS Utilization.

In 2003, NASA’s senior management commissioned the Station and Shuttle Utilization
Reinvention (SSUR) team. This team was challenged to develop and recommend change
strategies that would streamline the utilization process and embrace the research community as
partners in accomplishing world-class science and research using both the ISS and the Space
Shuttle as research platforms. The SSUR team was chartered to evaluate the Station and Shuttle
utilization process to determine where NASA could increase focus on the research/user
customer, simplify and improve the processes, and maximize utilization research productivity.
The goal was to cut across NASA Programs, Enterprises, and Centers to identify and prioritize
the areas most needing change and develop change strategies and recommendations where
appropriate. Final recommendations were approved by NASA’s Executive Council, chaired by
the Deputy Administrator.

The SSUR team’s senior advocates approved the charter with the following study goals:

  1. Optimize Agency high priority research throughput.
  2. Remove impediments to the utilization process.
  3. Enable ISS Research Institute success.
  4. Strengthen NASA’s emphasis on the research/user community to enable a worldclass research environment in space.

Investigative Process

The SSUR team followed a methodical set of steps, culminating in a final set of
recommendations. The SSUR team gathered a comprehensive set of information from current
and past customer feedback data, previous studies, ongoing improvement initiatives, focus
groups including Principal Investigators (PIs), Payload Developers (PDs), and other stakeholders throughout the Agency and the external research community. The current utilization process was
documented through flowcharts, interface diagrams, and cycle time data.

In addition, an extensive analysis was conducted using these data. Individual cause and effect
diagrams and detailed Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) diagrams were used
to capture the major problems and impediments in the end-to-end process. Using an iterative
cause and effect analysis, the team produced an integrated cause and effect diagram, shown in
figure ES-1, which created a “roadmap” for the team to follow in identifying and analyzing
impediments to overcome to solve the major problems.

Click on image to enlarge

Figure ES-1. Integrated Cause and Effect Diagram Identifying Major Problem Areas

After the data gathering and analysis phases of the study process, Red Team I, a team of senior
NASA managers from across the Agency, evaluated the soundness of the study process
developed by the SSUR team. Red Team I recommendations were incorporated into the process
and used throughout the remainder of the study.

The next steps in the process were to develop solutions to the problem areas and develop
recommendations. Subteams of SSUR members were formed to address the five major problem
areas identified by the team. Brainstorming within the SSUR team, iterative discussion with
focus groups and stakeholders, and soliciting feedback from senior NASA management were
instrumental in generating ideas for solving the identified problems. Other organizations and conducted peer reviews to assist in evaluating and refining each of the change strategies.
Eighteen strategies were initially developed.

A critical step in the process was Red Team II’s evaluation of proposed change strategies. Red
Team II was composed of widely respected Principal Investigators and Payload Developers, both
internal and external to NASA. They were asked to evaluate the change strategies developed by
the SSUR team, to propose any changes, and to prioritize the strategies in terms of value to the
research community. The Red Team II response, in conjunction with the SSUR team’s
subsequent deliberations resulted in combining portions of several strategies and led to a final
total of 15 strategies. The SSUR team’s selection criteria, which included the Red Team II’s
response as one criterion, were used to develop the team’s final list of prioritized change strategy
recommendations. It is noteworthy that both the Red Team II and the SSUR Team
independently arrived at a consensus recommendation of the top strategies.

Several iterations with senior management, including the ISS and Shuttle Program Managers, the
Astronaut Office Manager, NASA Center Directors, Research Program Managers, and the
team’s Senior Advocates further refined the strategies and their implementation approaches.
This resulted in concurrence to proceed to the Executive Council with eight high priority change
strategies for immediate implementation, and a second grouping of seven additional strategies
that could be implemented when appropriate. The Executive Council approved the eight
strategies with minor modifications. This study was conducted and the change strategies were
approved prior to the release of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report.
While the SSUR team does not believe that any of the actions outlined in the change strategies
are influenced by the findings of the CAIB report, the OBPR and OSF should, as a follow on,
assess the entire SSUR report fully informed by the CAIB results.

The following is a high level summary of the change strategies. Section 3 of the report describes
these strategies in detail; along with rationale for the changes, a listing of similar
recommendations from past studies, and an implementation approach including change strategy
owners and senior advocates.

Highest Priority Strategies

Strategy 1: Unified Station and Shuttle Utilization Process

Establish a senior management position that oversees the entire end-to-end utilization process for
the Agency, and establish a Headquarters (HQ) Human Space Flight Utilization Board (HSFUB)
co-chaired by OBPR and OSF Associate Administrators (AAs) to integrate and prioritize Shuttle
and ISS utilization.

Strategy 2: Reduced Process Complexity

Continue the current ISS Payloads Office process improvement activity, which reduces data
deliverables, requirements, panels, boards, etc., and extend the current activity to include Shuttle

Conduct a process improvement effort for the proposal, selection, definition, and development
phases (front-end) of the end-to-end process, and develop a forward action plan to improve those
phases of the process.

Develop policies, procedures and agreements between NASA Centers to accept each other’s
analysis, technical specifications, review results and certifications to strengthen Center-to-Center
reciprocity. Extend to Research Partnership Centers as appropriate.

Develop a process and service standard to ensure the Principal Investigator has a consistent
interface throughout the end-to-end research process for both ISS and Shuttle payloads.

Strategy 3: Emphasize Agency’s Focus on Research

A major paradigm shift is needed in the Agency to increase the attraction and retention of worldclass
researchers and to grow U.S. advocacy for space-based research. To be successful in
implementing this paradigm shift, increased focus and priority on the research/user community is
needed from the top down. This strategy includes increased emphasis on the research/user
community as a customer throughout the Agency, increased awards and incentives for research
and increased flight crew emphasis on research.

Strategy 4: Alternate/Supplemental Space Access

Work with the Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP) team to assure that utilization
requirements are thoroughly considered in the ISTP trade space analysis. This includes
conducting an assessment of the potential demand for future Station and Shuttle utilization,
including science, commercial, education, DoD, and others; assessing value of providing
additional Expendable Launch Vehicle (ELV) cargo capability to and from the ISS; and
proposing near term solutions to upmass and downmass capability.

Strategy 5: Principal Investigator Decision Maker for Research

Develop a methodology to build flexibility into the system for the Principal Investigator to
change and mature the research ideas, objectives, and direction throughout the end-to-end

Strategy 6: Integrate Utilization at JSC

Combine Shuttle payload integration and ISS Payloads Office functions within the ISS Program,
providing a single interface to the research/user community and providing a common payload
integration service for Shuttle and Station platforms.

One year after the functions are combined within the ISS Program, assess implementation of a
separate Utilization program at JSC.

Strategy 7: Increase Utilization Funding Stability

Develop and implement a strategy and plan to increase utilization funding stability and establish
a better overall process for grant management.

Strategy 8: Maturity of Proposals

Revise OBPR’s NASA Research Announcement (NRA) solicitation, evaluation and selection
processes to ensure selected investigation proposals are of sufficient maturity to allow for
predictable progress to flight. Support this process by developing and maintaining a
comprehensive list of existing equipment, capabilities and options for the use of that equipment.

Additional Recommended Strategies

Strategy 9: Agency Research Success Philosophy

Recognize research access and mission success are two separate measures. Measure research
success using research community’s criteria.

Strategy 10: Expand Scope of ISS Research Institute

Expand the ISS Research Institute’s scope to include core functions (strategic planning,
advocacy, customer support, education, and public outreach) across Enterprises for ISS and
Shuttle Utilization payloads. Establish the ISS Research Institute as NASA’s entry point for all
potential research on Shuttle and the ISS.

Strategy 11: Timelines Tailored to Experiment With Payload Classification

Customize through negotiations with each research investigation the specific process plans and
schedules for each spaceflight experiment. Establish a payload classification system and ease the
development path for smaller and/or less complex payloads.

Strategy 12: Improve Research Advocacy

Implement an integrated approach for research advocacy that increases emphasis on ISS and
Shuttle utilization and meets the needs of the Research Enterprises and the ISS and Shuttle

Strategy 13: Concurrent Payload Development and Integration

Conduct a pilot program to demonstrate the feasibility of applying concurrent engineering
processes to the design, development, and integration of Shuttle and ISS utilization payloads.

Strategy 14: Agency Approach to Commercial Use

Provide a single headquarters focus to assess and approve commercial utilization efforts that
directly contribute to the Agency mission.

Assess feasibility of using a market-based tool for payload manifest optimization. Initiate a pilot
program, if the tool seems useful and cost effective.

Strategy 15: Manifest Optimization

Implementation Recommendation

The SSUR team proposes a definitive implementation plan, discussed in the main body of this
report, for each of the strategies. Further, the team recommends immediate implementation of
the top eight priority strategies, subsequently approved by Agency management, with the
remaining strategies representing lesser but still important priority.

The following steps are proposed to ensure implementation:

  1. Treat each change strategy as a project with a plan and schedule for implementation.
  2. Report to the Executive Council and/or the Leadership Council every six months on progress.
  3. Assign a SSUR team member to each change strategy owner as a consultant to ensure implementation meets the intent of the team.
  4. Conduct an independent assessment by the SSUR team in one year.

It is the opinion of the SSUR team that NASA implementation of the above change strategies
will result in achievement of our vision of the desired state for the ISS and Shuttle research

SpaceRef staff editor.