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I. BACKGROUND Charge to the Committee. This report covers a brief study requested by the Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The original charge to the Committee on NASA Information Systems is contained in the Statement of Task on page vi of this report. The following sentence from that Statement summarizes the basic assignment of the Committee: The Committee's initial task will be to identify critical issues on which NASA must act to ensure that its informa- tion systems activities lead to interoperabJe systems with a minimum of standardization, while providing for adapta- bility and growth.* The Associate Administrator for Space Science and Applications pro- vided further guidance on April 2, 1986, during the Committee's inaugural meeting. From this a corollary tasking emerged, which the Committee interpreted and applied as follows: The Committee should look beyond the technical aspects of this study and identify the critical issues affecting how the Office of Space Science and Applications (OSSA) should organize its information systems functions and programs to support space science and applications. Due to the relatively short time period of the study, the Committee's analysis could not be of sufficient depth to enable it to offer solutions. Thus, the objective of this report is to identify the critical issues that need to be examined in greater depth to enable OSSA to prepare its data * The Statement of Task, p. viii, indicates that NASA is working on a Global Resources Information Database (GRID). However, NASA represen- tatives have indicated that the GRID and its companion program, the Global Resources Information System (GRIS), have been superseded by other NASA initiatives, such as the "pilot" data systems and the Earth Observing System (EOS) that are mentioned herein. Therefore, there is no further reference to GRID or GRIS in this report. 1
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management organization and activities for the anticipated challenges of the future. The Committee has also suggested possible approaches to the resolution of each issue, recognizing that OSSA will have to select approaches that best support NASA's and OSSA's mission goals and objectives. The Fundamental Issue. While attempting to fulfill its charge, the _ . Committee often raised the question, "how important is information manage- ment to the OSSA mission?" From this prime question a host of corollary questions can be derived, such as: . , . "should the Associate Administrator devote more time (personally) to information systems management," "should the management of information systems be centralized to some greater degree," and "c-an OSSA objectives be met through existing information management proecesses or would change be beneficial." While it may-choose to seek advice in answering such questions (and many others, OSSA must answer them itself. The prime question is considered to be the fundamental issue. OSSA's Charter and Organization. The Committee gained an insight into, and was immensely impressed by the enormous scope of OSSA's rode and responsibilities. OSSA derives its responsibilities from those assigned to NASA in the Space Act of 195S, as amended: the law that established NASA. Section 203(a) of the Act includes the foil owing functions: -- "Plan, direct, and conduct aeronautical and space activities; -- "Arrange for participation by the scientific community in planning scientific measurements and observations to be made through the use of aeronautical and space vehicles, and conduct or arrange for the conduct of such measurements and observations; and -- "Provide for the widest practicable and appropriate dissemination of information concerning its activities and results thereof." The Act also establishes objectives such as the following: (~) expan- sion of human knowledge; (2) identification of benefits from aeronautical and space science technology; (3) preservation of the U.S. rode in aero- nautical and space science and technology; and (4) cooperation with other nations in peaceful applications of space. The organizational structure with which NASA addresses these charges is depicted in Figure l. At the top management levels, OSSA and the other four functional offices are headed by Associate Administrators reporting to the Administrator. Each major office has functions particular to its mission, and each manages its own information systems programs. 2
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Within OSSA, the organization of which is displayed in Figure 2, there are six science discipline directorates, each reporting to the Associate Administrator, that have line authority and responsibility for the management of their discipline programs. Section I T ] of NASA's 1986 Long Range Program Plan, dated August 1985, describes six major programs within OSSA, summarized as follows: l. Study of the distant universe attempts to answer questions about the size, scope, and structure of the universe; the origin and. future of the universe; and the physical Jaws that govern celestial phenomena. tOffice of Primary Responsibility (OPR): Astrophysics Directorate] 2. Exploration of the near universe is aimed at determining the origin, evolution, and present state of the solar system, and comparing Earth with the other planets. FOUR: Solar System Exploration Directorate] Characterization of Earth ~~d its environment is a global, interdisciplinary program, with emphasis on understanding processes that affect Earth's habitability, particularly its biological productivity and air and water quality. LOPE: Earth Sciences and Applications Directorate] . The life sciences program seeks to understand how life forms are affected- by the environmental conditions encountered in space and to find out how life originated and evolved in the universe. LOPE: Life Sciences Directorate] 5. The communications satellite program is aimed at developing and demonstrating technology that will relieve geostationary orbit congestion and frequency allocation shortages, and permit new communications, navigation, and search and rescue services; developing and supporting national interests in the regulatory aspects of satellite communications; and developing and promoting communications satellite interconnectivity. FOUR: Communications Directorate] The microgravity science and applications program investigates the behavior of material in a fluid state, the effects on that behavior of carrying out various processes in space, and the effects of gravity on processes carried out on Earth, and it seeks to exploit the unique characteristics of space by developing processes superior to those employed in the gravity environment of Earth. FOUR: Microgravity Science and Applications Directorate] 6. Prior to 197S, information management was entirely decentralized among the science directorates. Under this arrangement numerous successful missions, such as the.Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite System (GOES), were launched, and their data systems generally met the needs of their own missions at the time. However, each data system was 4
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designed uniquely for its own project, an approach that has led to incompatibility among the different systems a This has presented operating difficulties to users accessing data from several different projects' systems for their research analyses. The science directorates shill have the primary responsibility for planning and managing the information systems portions of their assigned projects, but they now receive assistance and support from the small Information Systems Office (ISO) that OSSA established in 1978. The ISO but it performs various advisory functions and a growing array of other responsibilities. The ISO provides advice to the Associate Administrator, supports the science directorates, conducts studies on information systems applications and technology, operates the NASA Space Science Data Center (NSSDC) at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), and is responsible for coordinating information systems program activities across the NASA organizational structure with offices that are involved in OSSA mission flight programs. The ISO is also involved in numerous cross-discip~inary activities and it has taken the lead in exploring technological solutions to OSSA's requirements. The ISO has no line authority, since it was initially established to be a consulting and advisory office. In recent years, however, it has become more heavily involved in the planning and execution of information systems. For example, the ISO was given the responsibility for providing "pilot" data systems to the ocean, climate, land, and planetary explora- tion programs. Each pilot program is a systems-engineered testbed for applying new and evolving technologies to address the information systems needs of a discipline. When the pilot demonstrates successful improve- ments in data access and manipulation, it becomes operational and it is turned over to the client discipline for subsequent funding and support. At least one of the four pilot programs mentioned above, the Pilot Ocean Data System (PODS), is now considered operational. The Committee was quite impressed with the scope of the ISO's activities, considering the fact that only three professionals and two secretaries are assigned. As presently constituted, the ISO must rely heavily on support from GSFC, JPL, and various contractors to fulfill its present responsibilities. In mid-1986 the Earth Science and Applications Directorate agreed to assign to the ISO the program management responsibility for the Earth Observing System's (EOS) information system--clearly a formidable task. The EOS Data Pane] considers EOS to be essentially a very large, Jong-term program involving multi-disciplinary data collection, and processing, and analysis. However, unlike the data processing in most other projects, where value resides in the fine] product, the value in EOS is seen to be distributed over many stages of data processing, since its data are meant to serve as a dynamic resource for research on global phenomena.* This will require an information system capable of retaining al] of the EOS * Report of the Eos Data Pane] (Robert R. P. Chase, et al.), NASA Technical Memorandum 87777, Volume ITa, 1986, pp. 24-25. 6
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data. The EOS Data Pane] further indicated that the unique characteris- tics of EOS will necessitate the establishment of new principles for data composition, arrangement, storage, archiving, and catalog documentation. Even when EOS is not taken into consideration, there is a great dead of integration and interaction among offices within NASA that involves the six OSSA science directorates and OSSA's ISO. Examples: Each of the science directorates depends on the Space Transportation System, managed by the Office of Space Flight, to carry its satellites and other instruments aloft. Each of the science directorates has planned experiments or operational activities involving the Space Station, and al] NASA program offices are involved in Space Station planning. Space research missions conducted by the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology support the missions of the science directorates, and are influenced by them. The Office of Space Tracking and Data Systems supports the science directorates' missions through the space and ground network that includes the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). Quantification of OSSA's Data Management Problem. The four major - issues identified by the Committee ·~e s~mmar~zed th Chapter I] and a more detailed discussion of each is preseted in Chapters Ill through VI. Refer- ence is made in those chapters to the large increases in data with which OSSA, its components, and its researchers will have to cope, particularly in the land, ocean, and atmospheric sciences. However, some quantifica- tion is required early on, to enable the reader to calibrate the scope of the data management problem. Figure 3 and Table I, on the next two pages, summarize anticipated data growth and rates during the next TO to iS years. Further information on data volumes and rates is presented in Figures 5 through 7 and Table 2, at the end of Chapter VI. Reference is also made throughout this report to the increasing interdependence among the various science disciplines and their component parts. This is displayed graphically for the Earth System Science disci- plines in Figure 4, on page 27 (Chapter IV). After the Committee had completed its data-gathering phase and began to draft this report, it encountered an innate tendency among its members to recommend solutions to NASA's problems as perceived by the Committee. On reflection, however, it was decided that the report should stress the identification of issues, as NASA had requested, and limit its recommenda- tions to those that might assist NASA in determining how to approach the issues. These recommendations generally are couched in terms of suggested approaches to the issues, and thus are not accorded any particular degree of emphasis. 7
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Projected Growth Rates for Space Science Data. Bone In a, -, I," cat ~ lot 5 _ - 1nl4 DATA GROWTH Etch trio=" __- ___— Solar and Space Physics.. .~e _~ ~ Sciences - ~ . ~ loll Let 1 1 1 1 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 YEAR · ~ __— Agronomy Note: Earth orbital missions assumed to last for 5 years, except for operational satellites and the space telescope, which are projected as continuing data producers. Source: Issues and Recommendations Associated with Distributed Computation and Data Management Systems for the Space Sciences; Committee on Data Management and Computation, Space Science Board, NRC, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; 1987. Figure 3 8
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Table i. Data Expected From a Number of Missions in the Land, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences .. MISSION STATUS Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite G. H NOAA F-J Earth Radiation Budget Experiment LANDSAT D, D' Topography Experiment for Ocean Circulation Geopotential Research Mission Shuttle Imaging Radar B. C, D Shuttle Imaging Spectrometer EOS YEAR DATA VOLUME EXPECTED On-going On-going Approved On-going Planned Planned B=Funded C/D=Planned Planned Planned On-going On-going 1984 On-going 1988 1991 1984, TED 1989 l990s 1.5 x 1013 bits/year 1013 bits/year 1O12 bits/year 1014 bits/year loi2 bits/year loi2 bits/year 6 x 10~4 bits 10~3 bits loi2 bits/day Note: Current volume of Landsat data is approximately 10~4 bits, while 2 x 10~3 bits of other data exist. Current volume at NSSDC is approximately 7 x loi2 bits. Similar tables are available from other discipline areas. 1 Source: Issues and Recommendations Associated with Distributed ~- ComPutation and Data Management SYstems for the Space Sciences; Committee on Data Management and Computation, Space Science Board, NRC; National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.; i987. 9
Representative terms from entire chapter: