Status Report

NASA SMD: Coming soon: PI Launchpad 2021

By SpaceRef Editor
October 22, 2020
Filed under ,

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, in partnership with the Heising-Simons Foundation, will host a virtual workshop tentatively planned for early Summer 2021 to explore the fundamentals of how to turn a science question into a mission concept. With this e-mail, we hope to provide advanced planning notice of the workshop for interested parties.


This 2021 version follows the successful initial Launchpad held in November of 2019 at the University of Arizona. Due to COVID-19, we are reformulating the workshop as a virtual event. The workshop is targeted towards researchers who have previously submitted research, observing, fellowship, and/or technology proposals to any organization and are thinking about developing their first flight mission proposal within the next few years. Participants will go step-by-step through the process to develop a science case, define requirements, build a team, and gain support. The workshop will provide participants with time for networking and personal reflection as they mature their mission concepts.


This workshop is not specific to any particular Announcement of Opportunity.  Participation in the workshop is not a prerequisite for submitting a proposal to NASA and will not be a factor in the evaluation of future proposals. NASA intends to continue offering workshops on this topic in the future, whether in person or virtual.


Launchpad 2021 Application Process and Timeline:


A call will be posted on NSPIRES in early 2021 with an opportunity to apply to Launchpad 2021. The format of the 2021 application will be similar to the 2019 Launchpad application (please find the expired application for the 2019 Launchpad here for reference) and will consist of no more than 5 questions, focused on: 


  1. What science question would you like to develop into a mission concept?
  2. Views on Leadership.
  3. Role of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility (DEIA) in teams.
  4. Group and power dynamics in teams.
  5. Management for effective teams.


There is no cost to attend the workshop. The workshop will be virtual and exact details are still under development. There will be some pre-work expected to be conducted on your own prior to the workshop. 

As before, we are interested in broadening the pool of potential NASA space mission PI’s. People with potentially intersecting marginalized identities are strongly encouraged to apply. Anyone interested may apply with exceptions noted below.


Eligibility details: Non-US citizens currently working at a US institution will be eligible. Non-US citizens working outside of a US institution will not be eligible. US citizens working temporarily outside the US (e.g. post-doctoral fellowship) will be eligible to apply. People who have previously been space mission PIs or held other leadership roles (Deputy PI, etc.) with significant contributions during the proposal writing process will not be eligible. Technology development or demonstration concepts will not be solicited for this workshop.


Updates will be made available here as they are announced. Check back in early 2021 for more information.


Launchpad 2019 content now available online:


Many more people applied to attend the 2019 workshop than we were able to accommodate. In light of the community response and our inability to hold a planned in-person 2020 workshop due to COVID-19, we have placed much of the 2019 workshop content online. This content includes the workbook provided to participants, the 3-day workshop agenda, and videos of panels and presentations. Where appropriate, we have also included pdfs of all presentations.


Please find the main Launchpad page here:


If you have questions, please contact Prof. Erika Hamden (hamden@arizona.


SpaceRef staff editor.