It is unclear how the team plans to objectively and directly benchmark the NGAVGS and NFIR techniques and how the VNS, the Orion-procured sensor, will fit into the mix. Alternatives being developed outside NASA also may have a role in this objective comparison.
A mix of testing facilities exists within NASA (JSC and MSFC), at contractors, and within the DOD (Naval Research Laboratory). The plan by which all of these capabilities will be fully utilized is unclear since the focus by the NASA presenters addressing the committee was on JSC. The team did mention that it plans to revisit the testing plan to look at this wider set of facilities. Also, in the simulation area it does not appear that previous work both within and outside NASA was being fully utilized, since it was stated that the team is largely developing its own simulations at JSC.
The project’s technology roadmap shows the continued development of NFIR and NGAVGS on parallel paths to 2010, with technology enhancements to support Orion from 2009 to 2012. Simulation and testing end after 2008, which appears to be a disconnect with continued NFIR and NGAVGS development unless it is assumed that Orion picks up this work. In 2011 Lunar Optical Navigation and technology enhancements begin funding to support the Altair Lunar Lander.
Since this project is only focused on the AR&D sensors rather than on the whole AR&D problem, it lacks a systems engineering approach to solving the problem and largely appears to be responding only to Orion requirements, many of which focus solely on the ISS mission. The sensor technology transition is scheduled for the summer of 2008 and will occur before the Orion PDR, which was moved from May 2008 to September 2008.
Many of the technology risks are associated with meeting the minimum range, maximum range, and frequency requirements. It is noteworthy that four of the five top project risks are ranked as high-likelihood, high-consequence risks. Risk management approaches are mentioned, but the technology development will need to be closely monitored and scrutinized.
AR&D is often cited as a critical technology needed to support the VSE in the near term for Orion’s mission to the ISS, in the mid-term for the Altair Lunar Lander, and in the long term for future Mars architectures. That is why it is especially important that a holistic, systematic approach be taken to this technology. This project appears to the committee to suffer from a somewhat myopic focus on solely near-term needs for the Orion-to-ISS mission and on the sensors alone. This approach is likely to result in technologies that do not support the VSE as a whole and that penalize future elements.
The objective of the Exploration Life Support (ELS) project is to develop and mature life support system technologies that meet mission requirements approximately 6 years before flight or occupancy of the various elements of the Constellation Program such as the Crew Exploration Vehicle (Orion), Lunar Lander, Lunar Habitat, and the pressurized rovers. The technologies selected cover Air Revitalization Systems, Waste Management Systems, Water Recovery Systems, and Habitation Engineering.
In the ELS project, critical technologies have been defined, responsibilities have been assigned to a large number of NASA centers, and grants and cooperative agreements have been established with non-NASA and non-U.S. organizations. In general, a great deal of this work is being developed and executed in-house, with little