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1 Introduction BACKGROUND NASA's Aerospace Technology Enterprise (Code R) contracted with the National Research Council's (NRC's) Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) to provide biennial assessment of NASA's Aerospace Technology Enterprise programs the Pio- neering Revolutionary Technology (PRT) program, the Revolutionize Aviation program, and the Space Launch and Transfer Technology program. The first review in the series is that of the PRT program group; other reviews will follow in the coming years. Pro- grams within the PRT group are the Computing, Infor- mation, and Communications Technology (CICT) pro- gram, the Engineering for Complex Systems (ECS) program, and the Enabling Concepts and Technolo- gies (ECT) program. After most of the NRC's review of the PRT pro- gram had taken place, the Aerospace Technology En- terprise underwent a slight restructuring. NASA changed the name of the PRT program to the Mission and Science Measurements (MSM) theme in FY2003. The Revolutionize Aviation program was renamed the Aeronautics Technology theme. The Space Launch and Transfer Technology program included within the broader Space Launch Initiative theme has been reor- NOTE: A listing of acronyms and abbreviations can be found in Appendix F. 11 ganized for FY2004 under a new name: Next Genera- tion Launch Technology program. In this report, the committee continues to refer to the program as the PRT program since most of the work reviewed began under the PRT program and continues under the new MSM theme. Most changes in structure and content will be reflected in the ECT program in a later fiscal year. Appendix C provides an organizational and budget chart outlining the programs and elements of the PRT program during FY2002-2003. APPROACH TO ASSESSMENT A committee and three panels (one for each of the three subprograms of the PRT program) were formed by the NRC in May 2002. The membership of the com- mittee and the panels includes a cross section of senior executives, engineers, researchers, and other aerospace professionals (see Appendix B). The committee and the panels were charged with independently assessing the overall scientific and technical quality of the PRT program elements (Appendix A). These assessments include findings and recommendations related to the quality and appropriateness of NASA's internal and collaborative research, development, and analysis. While the primary objective was to conduct peer as- sessments that provide scientific and technical advice, the committee and panels did offer programmatic ad-
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12 AN ASSESSMENT OF NASA 'S PIONEERING REVOLUTIONARY TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM vice when such advice followed naturally from techni- cal considerations. The committee and the three panels met at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountainview, California, June 10- 13,2002, for an overview of the PRT program and its various elements. Subgroups of panel members subsequently participated in laboratory site visits, tele- conferences, and other information-gathering activities throughout the summer. (A list of committee and panel activities can be found in Appendix D.) NASA re- searchers submitted completed questionnaires describ- ing individual research tasks funded within the program to be assessed by the panelists. The two questionnaires can be found in Appendix E. A total of 385 internal NASA research tasks were reviewed and 13 site visits were made. In September 2002, each panel met in Washington, D.C., to reach consensus on observations, findings, and recommendations and to engage in an interactive dia- logue with NASA program managers. Panel draft re- ports were then submitted to the committee. The com- mittee met in Washington, D.C., on November 6-8, 2002, to discuss the panel findings, recommendations, and overarching issues and to engage in dialogue with NASA managers representing the PRT program. Dur- ing this meeting equal amounts of time were given to (1) discussing the panels' assessments of the top-tier and bottom-tier work in their respective programs, nor- malizing the results of these two sets of work, and choosing efforts to be highlighted to NASA, and (2) pulling together a set of common issues that cut across the PRT program. Because the research conducted under the PRT pro- gram is so diverse and in order to provide the best pos- sible assessment of technical quality to NASA, the committee felt it should rely on the experts on the pan- els to assess the individual programs and their respec- tive projects, elements, and individual research tasks. The committee's role was to integrate the results and provide overarching advice to NASA management. Following this meeting, the committee published a short report on its preliminary observations, findings, and recommendations (NRC, 2003~. A period of reevaluation was built into the review in order to provide NASA management with opportu- nities to address issues of importance that surfaced dur- ing the September panel meetings and to revisit pro- grams in the midst of critical change. Selective site visits were carried out and additional information on program changes was obtained during the spring of 2003 (see Appendix D); the panel reports were then updated to reflect the new information. A final meet- ing was held May 6-7, 2003, in Washington, D.C., to finalize the committee's top-level findings and recom- mendations based on the site revisits and to complete the committee's report taking into account new infor- mation from the spring site revisits and updated panel reports. REPORT ORGANIZATION AND DEVELOPMENT This report focuses on two levels of assessment: (1) an overall evaluation of the technical quality of the PRT program and (2) an evaluation of individual pro- grams and projects within PRT. Chapter 2 examines the overall quality of the PRT program and presents a series of overarching issues and recommendations for quality improvements. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 are reports from the three independent panels to the main commit- tee. They provide individual assessments of the three PRT programs and more specific recommendations to technical managers within those programs. During the review process, as the panels became better acquainted with the contents and organization of the programs under their purview, it was determined that the panel reports would stand as individual reports of the panels. The three programs under review are very different in size, scope, research content, and organization. For example, the CICT program, at $139 million, funded 242 individual research tasks during FY2002. ECS, at $24 million, funded 52 tasks, and ECT, at $92 million, funded 91 in-house tasks and 111 external research awards that were selected and managed separately from the rest of the program. Each panel evaluated the indi- vidual research tasks funded by the specific program under its purview, providing a level of detail similar to that provided by the other two. Review results were coordinated, and top-tier and bottom-tier criteria were normalized at both of the committee meetings listed previously. This report presents an integration, evalua- tion, and summary of the efforts of the three individual (and essentially independent) panels and a top-level as- sessment of the entire PRT program. REFERENCE National Research Council (NRC). 2003. Interim Report of National Re- search Council Review of NASA's Pioneering Revolutionary Technol- ogy Program. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. Avail- able online at . Accessed April 29, 2003.