Status Report

Testimony by Sean O’Keefe on NASA’s FY 2003 Budget before the House Science Committee (Part 2)

By SpaceRef Editor
February 27, 2002
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Part [1][2][3]

Earth Science

These are exciting times for NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise. New NASA satellite views of Earth from space are providing new perspectives on how Planet Earth works. New observations measure how the Earth is changing in response to natural and human forces. Our Nation and the world community are confronted with the prospect of future climate change and its myriad potential consequences. Substantial uncertainties remain in our understanding of the Earth’s climate, and our ability to predict change and make sound decisions based on reliable predictions is hampered by these uncertainties. The global view afforded by the vantage point of space and the scientific expertise to translate these views into useful knowledge is NASA’s unique and essential contribution to the Nation’s global change research endeavor. And these views of Earth are finding increasingly broader application to challenges faced by businesses, agriculture, and local governments across the Nation.

NASA is well along in deployment of the Earth Observing System (EOS) – humankind’s first attempt at an ordered study of the major interactions of the Earth’s continents, oceans, atmosphere, ice cover, and life. Daily global observation of winds over the oceans by NASA’s QuikSCAT satellite are being used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to improve marine weather forecasting. The improved NOAA forecasts will predict the onset of storms and hurricanes up to 42 hours in advance over both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The first globally-consistent, 30-meter resolution data set based on Landsat imagery is nearly complete, allowing global assessments of land cover change and its impact on the cycling of carbon through the Earth system. In addition, global radar topography data from the Shuttle Radar Topography missions will improve the imaging of the land surface from 2-D to 3-D , with direct applications to national security, natural hazard mitigation (e.g., volcanoes and earthquakes), and transportation and water resources management. NASA-sponsored researchers discovered that aerosols (i.e. particles suspended in the atmosphere) can enhance or retard precipitation depending on their origin and type. NASA also provided the first detailed radar maps of Antarctica showing rates of movement of ice from the interior to the oceans. Through innovative partnerships between industry and NASA, we achieved a 10-fold increase in our capability for computational modeling of climate change over the best that was available in early 2001.ÊÊ This is but a sampling of the wealth of new knowledge streaming from the Nation’s investment in NASA’s Earth Science Enterprise.

The President’s FY 2003 request for Earth Science of $1.628 billion extends this trajectory of success. It supports review, coordination, and planning with other Federal agencies as NASA completes the deployment of the first series of EOSsatellites. The budget provides for Major Development, Research and Technology, Mission Operations, and Mission Support. All elements of the Earth Science Enterprise are aimed at the goal of answering science questions of societal importance as documented in our Research Strategy. This Strategy, endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, lays the essential foundation for progresstoward the President’s goal of addressing the uncertainties in climate change, as well as in improving the Nation’s ability to predict weather and natural hazards. The FY 2003 budget request for Earth Science will assure public and private sector leaders and citizens have the information they need to make sound decisions wherever climate, weather, natural hazards and other global and regional changes play a part.

Earth Science Major Development comprises the development and launch of Earth science satellites, and the development of the EOS data and information system (EOSDIS) to acquire, process and distribute the resultant data and information. The FY 2003 budget request reflects the completion and launch of several EOS satellites, and transfer of EOSDIS operations requirements to Mission Operations. In FY 2002, NASA will launch Aqua and SORCE, and complete development of ICEsat and SciSAT for launch in early FY 2003. Aura will be completed and launched in FY 2004, marking the full deployment of the EOS first series of satellites.

The FY 2003 budget request continues funding for next generation of EOS missions, including the continued development of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) Preparatory Project (NPP). NPP serves simultaneously to extend essential measurements begun by Terra and Aqua and demonstrate new technology for NPOESS, the converged civilian and military weather satellite system. This budget also funds the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), which is being planned as a commercial data purchase. Landsat data are the most widely used land imagery data, and are employed in agriculture, forestry, and urban and regional planning throughout the United States. This budget also funds the formulation of an ocean topography mission to follow the Jason mission launched in 2001. This new mission is being implemented in partnership between NASA, NOAA and their European counterparts as another transition mission (along with NPP) between research and operational mission agencies. We will also undertake study of a potential global prwillitation mission (GPM) to measure rainfall worldwide for both climate research and assessment of impacts on fresh water availability around the world.

The Administration is conducting a review of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and its alignment with the President’s Climate Change Research Initiative (CCRI). Consequently, NASA has deferred initiation of any new major EOS missions in FY 2003 until the Administration has completed its review.

The Earth Science Research and Technology budget funds basic research, applications activities, and technology infusion. The research program funds competitively selected, peer-reviewed proposals from universities, Government labs, and industry, and comprises the intellectual capital to plan and exploit Earth science missions to answer science questions of societal importance. Products planned for FY 2003 include the characterization of global sources of carbon monoxide, and integrated data sets for the study of sources and sinks of tropospheric aerosols. Both are important factors in influencing the Earth’s climate system. We will also use satellite and in situ observations to develop a high-resolution model of the Pacific Ocean to assess the impact of seasonal and decadal variations in ocean dynamics on Earth’s weather and climate.

The goal of the Applications, Education and Outreach activities is to expand and accelerate the realization of economic and societal benefits from Earth science, information and technology. NASA has developed a new Applications Strategy to guide plans over the next ten years to partner with local governments, academia, and the commercial remote sensing industry to demonstrate new applications of remote sensing data. Central to this Applications Strategy are partnerships with service provider organizations such as NOAA, FEMA, and USDA who define the needs, work with NASA to demonstrate new applications, and implement them withvarious commercial and local partners. For example, the Administration believes that a powerful opportunity exists to develop and apply Earth Sciences capabilities to solve important aviation challenges. Air travel in the US and worldwide is seriously limited by poor short-term (0-6 hour) weather forecasts, vaguely defined icing and turbulence boundaries, and other weather issues. High resolution sensing and precision forecasting using advanced space-borne systems offer breakthrough opportunities for improving the operational efficiency and safety of air travel.ÊÊ Two competitive solicitations for new applications ideals will be issued in FY 2002, resulting in selections of new partners in FY 2003. Such partnerships are anticipated to result in new products to enhance aviation safety, efficiency in agricultural production, and lower-cost planning of infrastructure by US cities and states. The Earth science education programs train hundreds of new graduate students and thousands of new and in-service teachers each year, giving rise to the next generation of scientists and engineers to power the U.S. economy.
NASA’s Earth Science technology infusion program is making possible the next generation of Earth observing satellites to study climate, weather and natural hazards. These will be cheaper and far more capable than today’s satellites due to technology investments in new instruments, new communication pathways, and new spacecraft systems. Our investment in advanced technologies will also help shorten the development cycle of satellites and hence their overall life cycle costs. This budget continues development of Earth Observer-3, leading to the next generation of geostationary weather satellites that will measure atmospheric temperature and humidity for weather and climate research.

The Earth Science Mission Operations budget supports operation of twelve satellites, operation and maintenance of the ground system for command, control and handling of data and information resulting from them. The request reflects the transfer of the EOSDIS operations requirements from Major Development, given the near-completion of EOSDIS development and the shift in emphasis to operations and technology evolution. The EOSDIS has been serving millions of Government and private-sector users by providing data and information from NASA satellites during the past two years. In addition to operating spacecraft the EOSDIS acquires, processes, and distributes data gathered by the EOS missions. This data will lay the groundwork for the government as well as commercial and academic partners to generate the higher-level data products. These higher-level data products will make it easier for researchers, educators, policy-makers and the public to understand and use ESE satellite data and information. We are now demonstrating, for the first time in the history of civilian remote sensing, formation flying and a constellation of multiple satellites whose collective power is greater than their sum, and act as a super-satellite.

Biological and Physical Research (BPR)

NASA’s Biological and Physical Research (BPR) Enterprise seeks to exploit the space environment to conduct research and to develop commercial opportunities, while building the vital knowledge base needed to enable efficient and effective systems for protecting and sustaining humans during extended space flights. The FY 2003 budget request for BPR is $842.3 million, which includes $321.8 million for Biological and Physical Research Programs, $347.2 million for ISS research capabilities, and $173.3 million for Institutional Support. BPR addresses the two fundamental challenges associated with human space flight:Ê (1) understanding nature’s forces in space; and (2) understanding the human experience in space.

Established in FY 2001, the BPR Enterprise closes its first year with a significant record of accomplishment. Congress and the White House have shown their strong support for the new organization by increasing its FY 2002 budget and by adding the ISS research hardware development program to its responsibilities. The FY 2003 budget includes funding for new initiatives in space biology and space radiation research. During FY 2001, BPR initiated a program of research on the International Space Station to take advantage of available resources during the construction phase, released three separate solicitations for research proposals, and strengthened its research investigator community.

ÊBPR also established a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Agriculture, conducted a joint research solicitation with the National Cancer Institute, and continued work under 18 other agreements with the National Institutes of Health. In a truly auspicious sign of things to come, a BPR investigator received the Nobel Prize in physics for ground-based research that he and other Nobel laureates plan to extend and expand on the International Space Station.

ISS Outfitting and Research

ISS outfitting for research began with the delivery of the Human Research Facility in March 2001. NASA delivered to orbit two research equipment racks in mid-April and an additional two at the beginning of Expedition 3 in August. The Agency is on-track to deliver another five research equipment racks by the end of 2002. In spite of a significant unscheduled load of ISS upkeep and troubleshooting activities, the ISS team was able to meet the minimum research objectives of the first three researchincrements. Expedition 4 is currently ongoing.

After a year of continuous human occupation, the ISS now has five research racks. There are 25 unique payloads and 29 investigations currently underway aboard ISS, representing research from government, industry and academia. By the end of Expedition 4, 34 payloads and 51 investigations will have been carried out since ISS construction in orbit began. This is a balanced program of scientific exploration that will contribute, along with ground-based research, to the fields of biology, physics, chemistry, and the long-term effects of space flight on humans. Included are several experiments sponsored by the private sector and focusing on bone loss treatments, plant growth, pharmaceutical production, petroleum refining, and education.

BPR investigators reported a series of important findings in 2001, including research with applications in space and on the ground. Results from earlier flight investigations suggest that the human brain contains an internal model of gravity and that this model may be very difficult or potentially even impossible to “unlearn.”Ê (Nature Neuroscience, 4, 693- 694, 2001). This experiment raises the possibility that the nervous system may contain a “hardwired” model of gravity. If confirmed, this would be a fundamental discovery that could influence medical treatments for people with damaged or impaired nervous systems. In addition, this finding has important implications for the design of safe and efficient environments and systems for human space flight.

In what may be a breakthrough for astronauts and osteoporosis victims alike, researchers were able to prevent bone loss using mild vibrationsÊ (FASEB J, October 2001). BPR researchers were able to counteract the bone loss in rats when their hind limbs are relieved of the weight of the body by exposing the rats to mild vibrations. This study opens the door to a new method for controlling the 1% per month loss of bone that astronauts experience in space, and clinical studies are planned to determine the usefulness of vibration for treating or preventing osteoporosis on Earth.

Early in the year, BPR researchers reported that they had “brought light to a full stop, held it, then sent it on its way.”ÊÊ (Physical Review Letters, January 29, 2001, Vol. 86, Issue 5). Researchers used lasers they developed under BPR funding to bring a beam of light to a complete stop in a specially designed trap, and then released it again. In atomic physics research, Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, a BPR-funded investigator, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his seminal BPR-funded work on Bose-Einstein Condensate, a new state of matter in which a large number of individual atoms behave as one.

In biotechnology research, a research group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology grew heart tissue with “significantly improved” structural and electrophysiological properties, using NASA bioreactor technology (Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology,Ê Jan. 2001). The NASA bioreactor allows researchers to grow tissues in the laboratory that much more faithfully reproduce the properties of natural tissues in the body. These tissues allow researchers to explore mechanisms of disease and may ultimately improve processes for creating engineered tissue for use in treatment and transplant.

An important discovery from Space Station research has revealed growth patterns in microscopic crystals that could lead to improved manufacturing for pharmaceuticals and other materials.

In addition, StelSys (a joint venture of FVI and In Vitro Technologies) signed an agreement with NASA to explore commercial applications of bioreactor technology research specifically in areas related to the use of tissue cultures for the in-vitro testing of the efficacy of medical drugs. StelSys will fly liver cells as part of an ISS experiment this year.

Expeditions 4, 5, and 6 will fly during FY 2002 and experiments continue in the areas of biomedical research, biotechnology, microgravity fluid physics research, materials science, agriculture, and Earth observations. NASA continues to prepare for ISS on-orbit research through the preparation and testing of five additional research racks and ongoing payload crew training. In addition, NASA looks forward to launching STS-107, a Space Shuttle mission dedicated to biomedical and biological research.

NASA is pleased to report that, in support of the strategic goals of the BPR Enterprise, the President’s request includes funding for two new initiatives:Ê “Generations” and “Space Radiation.”Ê The Fundamental Space Biology Program will initiate a new “Generations” project to study the adaptation of organisms to the space environment over several generations and the capacity of terrestrial life to evolve in space. The project will employ ground based research and both the ISS and autonomous “free-flyer” platforms in different orbits, including High Earth Orbit beyond the Van Allen radiation belts. This will enable researchers to study the effects of the space flight environment on biological systems and processes, adding to fundamental knowledge, and may enable the development of countermeasures and life support technologies for future space missions. On an interdisciplinary basis, Bioastronautics Research, Physical Sciences Research, and the Fundamental Space Biology Programs will accelerate BPR’s efforts to develop knowledge, tools, and techniques to address space radiation health issues. This “Space Radiation” initiative was prompted by the need for an increased understanding of the effects of the radiation environment in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and beyond, and the establishment of more restrictive guidelines for astronaut radiation exposure levels. The ground based research initiative will generate knowledge, assess health risks to astronauts, and develop radiation shielding design tools and strategies, and countermeasures that can be employed aboard ISS and future space missions.

The FY 2003 funding plan for ISS Research is consistent with last year’s determination to reduce funding for Research equipment and utilization to fund the cost growth in development and operations of the ISS Program. The ISS Research program is being adjusted to maximize science return based upon the “U.S. Core Complete” configuration and reduced Space Shuttle flight rate. Consistent with recommendations from the IMCE Task Force, BPR is undertaking a thorough research reprioritization activity employing a committee of outside experts to focus the research program on the highest priority investigations requiring access to the space environment. In addition to stressing the maximization of research return from the ISS, BPR will actively seek options for broadening its access to flight platforms in pursuit of the answers to its driving scientific questions. NASA will work with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to engage the scientific community and reestablish clear high-priority, affordable science objectives with near-term focus on improving scientific productivity. The results of this review will help set the BPR science agenda that will, in turn, drive how the ISS is used. It should increase the efficiency and output of ISS research and realign NASA’s ISS research portfolio to reflect current priorities. NASA expects to release details of the plan for this activity soon.

NASA has carefully considered the option to establish a non-governmental organization (NGO) to manage the U.S. share of ISS utilization, as previously recommended by the National Research Council and directed by both the White House and Congress. These considerations have included three external studies and one internal study conducted over the past three years and posted to public web sites in an effort to keep all of our stakeholders informed of progress. The study phase is now concluded, and NASA is prepared to begin the competitive sourcing process this year, in order to complete the process in CY 2003.

During FY 2003, NASA expects to coordinate with the Administration and Congress, as we undertake steps necessary to finalize the scope and conduct formal information exchanges with an external community that has demonstrated a strong interest in pursuing the most efficient and effective approach to ISS utilization. NASA is enthusiastic about this opportunity and the potential it holds for achieving the fullest possible engagement of our Nation’s intellectual resources across the Government, academic, and industrial sectors. In preparation, we have nearly completed a preliminary NGO Implementation Plan, which addresses Congressional requirements. NASA plans to submit the plan to the Congress shortly.

Aerospace Technology

NASA’s FY 2003 request for the Aerospace Technology Enterprise is $2,815.8 million. We are striving to bring about the future of flight through revolutionary science and technology. The Aerospace Technology Enterprise mission is to advance U. S. preeminence in aeronautics and space research and technology, and we aim to radically improve both air travel and access to space. A modern air and space transportation system is fundamental to our national economy, quality of life, and security of the United States. Because the U. S. air and space transportation system serves both critical national security needs and the public good, ensuring the continued health and preeminence of that system is a key issue for the future of the Nation. To this end, the Aerospace Technology Enterprise has reorganized its program management and budget structure, consistent with Congressional direction. There is now a clear linkage between national policies, Enterprise strategic goals and the program management structure that provides a foundation for transparent, measurable performance reporting. The new management approach is now fully aligned with Aerospace Technology Enterprise goals:Ê Revolutionize Aviation, Advance Space Transportation, Pioneer Technology Innovation, and Commercialize Technology.

Although major technical advances have made our Nation’s air and space transportation system the largest and best of its kind, the future holds critical challenges to its continued growth and performance. In parallel with the Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP) that guides our space transportation programs, NASA has also created an Aeronautics Blueprint that comprises an integrated, time-phased cohesive strategic vision that can solve today’s challenges and lead to a new era of aviation progress in the 21st Century. Our programs are conducted in cooperation with other Federal agencies, primarily the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense. NASA is strengthening these partnerships to take advantage of the national investment in aeronautics and space capabilities and eliminate unnecessary duplication.

Revolutionize Aviation

Without a revolution in the aviation system, it will be impossible to accommodate the projected tripling of air travel within two decades in a safe and environmentally friendly manner. Revolutionizing the aviation system to meet the demands for growth means we must provide a distributed flexible and adaptable network of airways – within the physical and environmental constraints of today’s system. We must and will address the civil aviation system’s fundamental, systemic issues to ensure its continued growth and development, thereby giving backbone to the global transportation system and assuring global economic and cultural success and vitality.

The Revolutionize Aviation goal to enable, in both the near- and long-term, the safe, environmentally friendly expansion of aviation issupported by three programs – Aviation Safety, Vehicle Systems, and Airspace Systems – each of which makes an essential contribution to the fulfillment of this goal. The Aviation Safety program is developing and demonstrating technologies and strategies to improve both aviation safety and security by reducing both aircraft accident and fatality rates. The focus of the Airspace Systems program is on safely increasing air traffic capacity with fewer delays and expanding the potential for a small aircraft transportation system to augment a system dominated by large commercial transports. The Vehicle Systems program is focused on developing the airplane technologies that will reduce the environmental impacts of both noise and emissions from increased aviation operations, and applying emerging technology, such as nanotechnology, to new, 21st Century airplane concepts.

The Aerospace Technology Enterprise has made great strides in the reduction of NOX emissions, a known pollutant that degrades local air quality and adversely affects human health. In FY 2001, NASA-developed technology that reduces NOX emissions by 50 percent became available in new production jet engines. The extremely rapid incorporation of this technology into production systems demonstrates the importance of reducing NOX emissions as well as the professionalism of the NASA development team. The team has already begun working on technology that will reduce these emissions by an additional 20 percent. Sub-component testing of these technologies is already completed, and in FY 2003 testing of major components, such as combustor sectors, will be completed.

NASA is working closely with the FAA and the airlines to increase the capacity and efficiency of the National Airspace System. In FY 2001, NASA completed all work associated with the Collaborative Arrival Planner that provides the airlines with Air Traffic Management (ATC) situational awareness previously available only to the FAA. Currently operational in the American Airlines operations center and the Delta ramp tower at the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport, it provides increased accuracy in the prediction of arrival flights to enable better decisions regarding flight diversions and pushback times, leading to improved efficiency of operations.

During FY 2003, the Aerospace Technology Enterprise will continue to work with the FAA in developing additional support tools and will deliver a toolbox of state-of-the-art models of the airspace system. NASA will also be conducting flight tests of concepts that will lower the required minimum space between aircraft during landing and increase the volume of operations at landing facilities without towers in non-radar airspace during instrument meteorological conditions.

Advance Space Transportation

NASA is pursuing improvements in space transportation through a phased approach embodied within NASA’s Integrated Space Transportation Plan. NASA recognizes that privately owned and operated launch vehicles lofting NASA payloads on a regular basis is the right strategy to free up the Agency’s resources for scientific pursuit on the new frontier. The Aerospace Technology Enterprise has also been aggressively improving our partnership with the Department of Defense and working to identify their requirements and seeking areas of technology development that can be leveraged.

Last year, the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle Program (RLV), also known as the Space Launch Initiative (SLI) Program, implemented the first phase of technology development and architecture concept definition efforts, awarding more than $800 million in contracts to industry and academia. The program goals are to significantly reduce the cost and increase the safety and reliability of space transportation systems. In its two-fold approach, SLI is designing complete space transportation systems that can fulfill civil mission requirements on commercially competitive, privately operated launch vehicles while reducing the risks needed to build and operate the systems. To that end, rigorous systems engineering identifies technology gaps and continually focuses the program investments to fewer, more refined architectures and their required technologies, toward a mid-decade decision for full-scale development.

This year, the Interim Architecture and Technology Review will narrow the architectures investigated in the first phase of the program for detailed concept development. During the scheduled November 2002 Systems Requirements Review there will be further integration and synthesis of NASA and commercial requirements for the 2nd Generation RLV. This important review will result in more focused attention on fewer space transportation architecture options and technology areas associated withthem. Each industry partner will go forward with their most promising architecture, thereby driving technology maturation investments for the program while maintaining competition.

SLI’s vehicle airframe technology activities will continue in FY 2003 with the integration of an advanced Integrated Vehicle Health Monitoring sensor and completion of the corresponding structural analysis algorithm development. Also undergoing extensive thermal modeling and analysis is the Ultra High Temperature Ceramic thermal protection system. This material has been developed to reduce thermal loading experienced on a vehicle during orbital reentry without adding additional weight.

In FY 2003, the propulsion project will see component testing of multiple main propulsion and on-orbit maneuvering systems leading toward full-scale tests in the following years. Vehicle propellant tank development activities will proceed with component level tests of new tank joint concepts. The test results will lead to new joint designs enabling dissimilar materials and geometries to be joined for strength while eliminating leaks.

The Space Transportation and Launch Technology Program , or 3rd Generation RLV, endeavors to improve launch system safety, reliability and cost leading to airplane-like operations in the decades to come. This effort is aggressively pursuing technology development and demonstration of multiple air-breathing rocket engines for hypersonic flight. NASA is teaming with the Nation’s preeminent research organizations across the DOD, industry and academia to develop a National Hypersonics Science and Technology Plan. This investment strategy outlines a National roadmap for the research and development of operational hypersonic vehicles. By FY 2003, this program will have matured three revolutionary hypersonic propulsion systems to the point where an independent review team may make an assessment for the integration of the leading system candidate into a flight demonstration vehicle.

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SpaceRef staff editor.