U.S. universities from having to obtain ITAR licenses when performing fundamental research involving foreign countries and/or persons. Because universities often collaborate with foreign partners in research and teach or employ foreign graduate students and other researchers, ITAR has a substantial effect on university activities in the space sector. Many university activities are considered to be fundamental research and thus are excluded from ITAR control; however, academic regulatory-compliance administrators and researchers alike still encounter problems with space-related activities because of the narrow and somewhat ambiguous conditions that enable research to be considered “fundamental” and therefore excluded from licensing under ITAR.3

The use of technology developed for commercial purposes in spacecraft systems and science instrumentation has enormous potential for advancing science. However, space-qualified electronics are regulated under ITAR, so commercial developers avoid ITAR restrictions by avoiding dual-use recognition. ITAR “deemed export” rules limit the exchange of technical information on instruments and spacecraft technologies, thus impeding the development of scientific tools. Uncertainty stifles collaboration between domestic industry and research universities and discourages opportunities for progress involving U.S. and foreign scientists and students. Obstacles to partnership have driven Europe, Japan, and other nations to push ahead with their own small-size missions that foster training of non-U.S. engineers and scientists.

Programmatic Risk Management

Policies for assessing, managing, mitigating, or even futilely attempting to eliminate risk should be regularly updated so as not to impede technological development and scientific advancement. Continual evaluation of risk polices is needed, including those in NASA Procedural Requirement (NPR) 7120.5x, and appropriate application must be made for large, high-profile versus small, low-cost programs. Major drivers of program risk, such as uncertain funding profiles or delays in launch services, are often external to a project.


Frequency allocation policies for satellites and the congestion of current bands available for space research favor high-profile missions. This can disadvantage typically smaller heliophysics science missions and those that make use of secondary launch opportunities. Current frequency licensing and allocation policies also require knowledge of orbital parameters long before launch; this limits the opportunistic pairing of small satellites in containerized deployment systems with launch opportunities when orbital parameters are not known in advance. It would be helpful if NASA would engage proactively with the International Telecommunication Union.


3 NRC, Space Science and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, 2008.

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