. "4 Management and Execution of the Exploration Technology Development Program." A Constrained Space Exploration Technology Program: A Review of NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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A Constrained Space Exploration Technology Program: A Review of NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program
allocated the more mature end of the spectrum due to the scope of these efforts. As an example, in the current Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency, about 20 percent of the total funds are invested in low-TRL projects.4
The ETDP manager informed the committee that NASA management has made a deliberate decision to “balance” the space technology budget of the agency entirely toward the mid-TRL range, with the intent of maturing technologies that have already reached at least TRL 3 (in a few isolated cases TRL 2) to TRL 6 in order to meet the near- and mid-term needs of the Constellation Program.5
Given that the ETDP is the primary space technology program in NASA as pointed out at the beginning of Chapter 3, it is important to consider whether the scope of ETDP funding is sufficient to support the robust technology development necessary to “explore and to support decisions about…destinations” as called for by the VSE and to preserve the “role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical and space science and technology,” as called for by the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, as amended. It is not clear to the committee that the near- to mid-term supporting technology focus of the ETDP can sustain either the role of supporting “decisions about…destinations” or the broader leadership of the U.S. in space.
This investment strategy has effectively eliminated the low-TRL, long-term technology investments of NASA. Other than unsolicited proposals and Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), there is no effective mechanism to propose or fund such efforts. For example, while there have been several focused NASA Research Announcements issued under the ETDP, there has not been a call for broad technology. Such a request would invite a broader set of proposed technologies that could benefit NASA in the short, medium, or long term. If unsolicited proposals were received in the current environment, they would be reviewed by NASA center personnel with no or extremely limited discretionary budgets to fund them.
From the perspective of recent history, this shift in policy has also caused some entire areas of the NASA technology effort to become unfunded. For example, as recently as the FY 2003 budget, NASA funded a robust program in a wide variety of technologies, such as advanced information systems and synthetic design environments. Since the FY 2005 budget, areas such as system engineering methods and nuclear thermal propulsion have been eliminated. No funding for these areas is contained in the current ETDP or anywhere else within NASA.
Finding 3 on Program Context: The ETDP has become NASA’s principal space technology program. It is highlyfocused and is structured as a supporting technology program to the Constellation Program, designed to advance technologies at TRL 3 and above toward TRL 6. Because of this shift toward the relatively mature end of the technology investment spectrum, which is very closely coupled to the near-term needs of the Constellation Program, NASA has also in effect suspended research in a number of technology areas traditionally within the agency’s scope, and it has in many areas essentially ended support for longer-term (TRL 1-2) technology research.
PROGRAM MANAGEMENT AND IMPLEMENTATION METHODOLOGY
The ETDP spans the full panorama of elements that are part of large-systems design, planning, and engineering—from requirements, risk mitigation, and allocation to systems testing. It is thus imperative that sound systems engineering principles be applied across the management of the ETDP itself.6 Three main areas in which the committee developed findings that relate to effective systems engineering and management of the ETDP are operational risk reduction, requirements control, and effective technology transfer.
The ETDP has a well-designed approach to managing the programmatic risk of its own technology development. It is necessary, however, to consider the impact of ETDP technologies on the Constellation Program, on engineering, and on human health risks for crewed space systems, which interact in a variety of complicated and
Jay M. Cohen, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Subcommittee on the Prevention of Nuclear and Biological Attack, September 14, 2006, p. 6.
See the presentation of Frank Peri, Program Manager, ETDP, NASA, to the committee, October 10-11, 2007, in Washington D.C., included as Appendix H of this report.
See NASA, NASA Systems Engineering Handbook—2007 Revision, NASA/SP-2007 6105 Rev1, NASA, Washington, D.C. The committee agrees with the principles put forth in this document, particularly in Appendix G, “Technology Insertion.”