REVITALIZING NASA’S SUBORBITAL PROGRAM

ADVANCING SCIENCE, DRIVING INNOVATION, AND DEVELOPING A WORKFORCE

Committee on NASA’s Suborbital Research Capabilities

Space Studies Board

Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS

Washington, D.C.
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Revitalizing naSa’S SuboRbital PRogRam AdvAncing Science, driving innovAtion, And developing A Workforce Committee on NASA’s Suborbital Research Capabilities Space Studies Board Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This study is based on work supported by the Contract NNH06CE15B between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this pub - lication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project. International Standard Book Number 13: 978-0-309-15083-5 International Standard Book Number 10: 0-309-15083-3 Cover: Images courtesy of NASA. Design by Tim Warchocki. Copies of this report are available free of charge from: Space Studies Board National Research Council 500 Fifth Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20001 Additional copies of this report are available from the National Academies Press, 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Lockbox 285, Wash - ington, DC 20055; (800) 624-6242 or (202) 334-3313 (in the Washington metropolitan area); Internet, http://www.nap.edu. Copyright 2010 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America

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The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engi - neering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Harvey V. Fineberg is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad com - munity of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the gov - ernment, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. www.national-academies.or g

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OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STuDIES BOARD Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report (SSB with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2010) An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions (Space Studies Board [SSB], 2010) America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs (SSB with ASEB, 2009) Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2009) Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (SSB, 2009) A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Heliophysics Program (SSB, 2009) Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2009) Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring (SSB, 2008) Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA’s Constellation System (SSB with ASEB, 2008) Opening New Frontiers in Space: Choices for the Next New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity (SSB, 2008) Review of NASA’s Exploration Technology Development Program: An Interim Report (ASEB, 2008) Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA’s Constellation System: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2008) Severe Space Weather EventsUnderstanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2008) Space Science and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations: Summary of a Workshop (SSB, 2008) United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2008) Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (SSB, 2007) An Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences [BLS], 2007) Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Explora - tion (SSB with ASEB, 2007) Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop (SSB, 2007) Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (SSB, 2007) Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (SSB with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technol - ogy, 2007) Grading NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program: A Midterm Review (SSB, 2007) The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (SSB with BLS, 2007) NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation (SSB with the Board on Physics and Astronomy [BPA], 2007) Options to Ensure the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2007) A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (SSB with BPA, 2007) Portals to the Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers (SSB, 2007) The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (SSB, 2007) Limited copies of SSB reports are available free of charge from Space Studies Board National Research Council The Keck Center of the National Academies 500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001 (202) 334-3477/ssb@nas.edu www.nationalacademies.org/ssb/ssb.html

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COMMITTEE ON NASA’S SuBORBITAL RESEARCH CAPABILITIES STEVEN R. BOHLEN, Texas A&M University, Chair KRISTIN A. BLAIS, The Boeing Company MARK A. BROSMER, The Aerospace Corporation ESTELLE CONDON, NASA Ames Research Center (retired) CHRISTINE M. FOREMAN, Montana State University ADAM P.-H. HUANG, University of Arkansas MICHAEL J. KURYLO III, Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center ROBERT P. LIN, University of California, Berkeley FRANKLIN D. MARTIN, Martin Consulting Inc. R. BRUCE PARTRIDGE, Haverford College ROBERT PINCUS, RP Consultants W. THOMAS VESTRAND, Los Alamos National Laboratory ERIK WILKINSON, Southwest Research Institute Staff ROBERT L. RIEMER, Study Director DWAYNE A. DAY, Senior Staff Officer CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Editor LINDA M. WALKER, Senior Project Assistant v

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SPACE STuDIES BOARD CHARLES F. KENNEL, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, Chair A. THOMAS YOUNG, Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired), Vice Chair DANIEL N. BAKER, University of Colorado STEVEN J. BATTEL, Battel Engineering CHARLES L. BENNETT, Johns Hopkins University YVONNE C. BRILL, Aerospace Consultant ELIZABETH R. CANTWELL, Oak Ridge National Laboratory ANDREW B. CHRISTENSEN, Dixie State College and Aerospace Corporation ALAN DRESSLER, The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution JACK D. FELLOWS, University Corporation for Atmospheric Research FIONA A. HARRISON, California Institute of Technology JOAN JOHNSON-FREESE, Naval War College KLAUS KEIL, University of Hawaii MOLLY K. MACAULEY, Resources for the Future BERRIEN MOORE III, University of New Hampshire ROBERT T. PAPPALARDO, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology JAMES PAWELCZYK, Pennsylvania State University SOROOSH SOROOSHIAN, University of California, Irvine JOAN VERNIKOS, Thirdage LLC JOSEPH F. VEVERKA, Cornell University WARREN M. WASHINGTON, National Center for Atmospheric Research CHARLES E. WOODWARD, University of Minnesota ELLEN G. ZWEIBEL, University of Wisconsin RICHARD E. ROWBERG, Interim Director (from March 2, 2009) MARCIA S. SMITH, Director (until March 1, 2009) vi

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Preface This study was initiated at the request of Congress, through a request from NASA (Appendix A). In response to the request and to meet the ambitious schedule, in March 2009 the National Research Council established the Committee on NASA’s Suborbital Research Capabilities. The statement of task is given in Appendix B. The com - mittee heard presentations from NASA staff at its first meeting, held at the Keck Center of the National Academies in Washington, D.C., on May 20-21, 2009. It heard from research scientists, representatives of the commercial spaceflight community, outreach specialists, and others at its second and third meetings, held at the Laboratory for Space Astronomy and Physics, Boulder, Colorado, on August 19-20, and at the National Academies’ Beckman Center, Irvine, California, on September 23-25, 2009. The agendas of the committee meetings are presented in Appendix C. Biographies of the committee members are in Appendix D. The committee thanks those who made presentations and others who provided help, advice, and comments. The committee also thanks Linda Walker for making arrangements for and assisting at the committee’s meetings. Steven R. Bohlen, Chair Committee on NASA’s Suborbital Research Capabilities vii

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Acknowledgment of Reviewers This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the NRC’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report: James G. Anderson, Harvard University, Daniel N. Baker, University of Colorado, David C. Black, Universities Space Research Association, William Brune III, Pennsylvania State University, Mark Devlin, University of Pennsylvania, James R. Huning, National Science Foundation, Edward R. Laws, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard University, Kristina Lynch, Dartmouth College, Daniel McCammon, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jonathan F. Ormes, University of Denver, and Rainer Weiss, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Christopher F. McKee, University of California, Berkeley . Appointed by the NRC, he was responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution. viii

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Contents EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 1 INTRODUCTION 4 1.1 Origin of the Study, 4 1.2 Policy Background, 4 1.3 Technical Context, 5 1.4 Workforce Issues, 7 2 NASA’S AIRBORNE RESEARCH CAPABILITIES 8 2.1 Introduction, 8 2.2 Status, 12 2.3 Training Opportunities, 16 2.4 Planned Improvements, 17 2.5 Needs, 17 3 NASA’S BALLOON RESEARCH CAPABILITIES 21 3.1 Introduction, 21 3.2 Status, 29 3.3 Training Opportunities, 30 3.4 Needs, 32 4 NASA’S SOUNDING ROCKET CAPABILITIES 34 4.1 Introduction, 34 4.2 Status—Erosion of a National Asset, 40 4.3 Training Opportunities, 43 4.4 Planned Improvements, 45 4.5 Needs, 46 ix

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x CONTENTS 5 THE STRATOSPHERIC OBSERVATORY FOR INFRARED ASTRONOMY 48 5.1 Introduction, 48 5.2 Status, 49 5.3 Capability, 50 5.4 SOFIA’s Instrumentation Development Program, 52 5.5 Training of Undergraduate and Graduate Students, 52 5.6 Education and Outreach, 52 5.7 Findings and Recommendations, 52 6 PROGRESSING FROM EDUCATION TO TRAINING TO WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT 54 6.1 Introduction, 54 6.2 Context, 54 6.3 Needs, 58 7 POTENTIAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMMERCIAL SUBORBITAL CAPABILITIES 60 7.1 Introduction, 60 7.2 Status, 60 7.3 Potential Advantages Offered by Commercial Suborbital Platforms, 60 7.4 Training and Education of the Next Generation, 62 7.5 Planned Improvements and Execution of a Suborbital Program, 63 8 AN OVERVIEW OF NASA’S SUBORBITAL RESEARCH CAPABILITIES: 64 ASSESSMENT, FINDINGS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS BIBLIOGRAPHY 68 APPENDIXES A NASA Request and NASA Authorization Act of 2008 Section 505 71 B Statement of Task 75 C Public Agendas for Meetings 76 D Biographies of Committee Members and Staff 80 E Acronyms and Abbreviations 85 F NASA Sounding Rocket Budget History 88