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Stepping-Stones to the Future of Space Exploration: A Workshop Report
general public. Parkinson described GPS as a just-in-time technology that was really a collection of new technologies, all of which were necessary to develop the final product. The constituent technologies included spaceborne atomic clocks, spread-spectrum ranging, and inexpensive, low-power computing, among others. He provided examples of GPS successes. GPS had allowed the tracking of sheep and the accurate automated landing of aircraft; it had also led to an understanding of crustal motion and earthquakes.
Parkinson defined “disruptive” as something that used to be really hard but is now taken for granted. His message boiled down to three key enablers: focus, time, and leadership. For technology to be useful it needs to have the focus of a mission. The focus needs to have substance. One example of substance is reliability—not simply performance, but instead the reliability of the mission itself. Technology development has a natural rhythm. It takes time to mature technology appropriately. For example, a baker cannot double the temperature at which a cake is baking and then halve the baking time to achieve a baked cake. There is also a need for leadership from someone who understands how much time it will take to achieve a disruptive technology and who has the courage to stand up to the mainstream world, which is saying it can’t be done. This person is not the advocate and does not lead by committee. For example, GPS was cancelled by the Air Force on four separate occasions. Fortunately, civil leaders with more authority stepped in to prevent that from happening.
Moderator Trimble mentioned that the new Code T process is driven by requirements, while GPS was driven mainly by the capability itself. Parkinson confirmed that there had not really been any requirements for GPS. Because the Air Force did not think it wanted the capability, he could design to what he thought was achievable within constraints of cost and time. In a development program, one has to change requirements in a feedback loop once one realizes that a technology is not feasible. Parkinson also mentioned that the idea of a capability is more helpful than the idea of a requirement, because often requirements are defined so rigidly that they can never be achieved at a reasonable cost.
Newman asked how long technology development typically takes. Parkinson said that it depended on the mission. Typically, a technology planner can add 25 to 50 percent to the time an advocate says he needs to provide the technology. Accurate estimates require concrete and specific knowledge.
Christine Sloane, General Motors, began by describing her role in the Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles and the new Freedom Cooperative Automotive Research (FreedomCAR) research effort. FreedomCAR is designed to accelerate the development of technologies for new, energy-efficient vehicles and for hydrogen fuel and use them to transform an existing infrastructure (in this case, petroleum-fueled automobiles, or, more broadly, passenger transportation). The biggest challenge to inserting technology into the automobile industry and the fuel industry is acceptance of the new technologies by the marketplace and the public. Key to achieving that acceptance are cost, familiarity, performance, and durability (including tolerance for abuse by the consumer). She believed that these issues are probably less applicable to space travel, since the equipment and vehicles are all funded, assessed, operated, and maintained by professionals, not the marketplace. Technology insertion in the automotive industry must also take into account customer preferences at the point of purchase. Since the societal benefits of energy efficiency, such as reducing petroleum dependence or greenhouse emissions, may be