Finding. Facilities. Adequate research and testing facilities are essential to the timely development of many space technologies. In some cases, critical facilities do not exist or no longer exist, but defining facility requirements and then meeting those requirements fall outside the scope of NASA’s OCT (and this study).
Finding. Program Stability. Repeated, unexpected changes in the direction, content, and/or level of effort of technology development programs have diminished the programs’ productivity and effectiveness. In the absence of a sustained commitment to address this issue, the pursuit of OCT’s mission to advance key technologies at a steady pace will be threatened.
Recommendation. Industry Access to NASA Data. OCT should make the engineering, scientific, and technical data that NASA has acquired from past and present space missions and technology development more readily available to U.S. industry, including companies that do not have an ongoing working relationship with NASA and that are pursuing their own commercial goals apart from NASA’s science and exploration missions. To facilitate this process in the future, OCT should propose changes to NASA procedures so that programs are required to archive data in a readily accessible format.
Recommendation. NASA Investments in Commercial Space Technology. While OCT should focus primarily on developing advanced technologies of high value to NASA’s own mission needs, OCT should also collaborate with the U.S. commercial space industry in the development of precompetitive technologies of interest to and sought by the commercial space industry.
Finding. Crosscutting Technologies. Many technologies, such as those related to avionics and space weather beyond radiation effects, cut across many of the existing draft roadmaps, but the level 3 technologies in the draft roadmaps provide an uneven and incomplete list of the technologies needed to address these topics comprehensively.
Recommendation. Crosscutting Technologies. OCT should review and, as necessary, expand the sections of each roadmap that address crosscutting level 3 technologies, especially with regard to avionics and space weather beyond radiation effects. OCT should assure effective ownership responsibility for crosscutting technologies in each of the roadmaps where they appear and establish a comprehensive, systematic approach for synergistic, coordinated development of high-priority crosscutting technologies.
In summary, the draft set of 14 roadmaps produced by NASA contained 320 level 3 technologies. The panels assessed the technology area breakdown structure of the 14 roadmaps and developed a revised structure containing 295 level 3 technologies. Of those 295 technologies, 83 were considered high priority by the panels. The steering committee then evaluated those 83 technologies. Through an organizing framework relating objectives, challenges, and individual technologies, the prioritization process across all roadmaps identified 7 or 8 technologies for each of three independent technology objectives, for a total of 16 unique technologies that this report recommends be emphasized over the next 5 years of the 5- to 30-year window of the technology roadmaps.
Technological breakthroughs have been the foundation of virtually every NASA success. The Apollo landings on the Moon are now an icon for the successful application of technology to a task that was once regarded as a distant dream. NASA science missions that continue to unlock the secrets of our solar system and universe, and human and robotic exploration of the solar system are inherently high-risk endeavors and require new technologies, new ideas, and bold applications of technology, engineering, and science to create the required vehicles, support systems, and space operations infrastructure. NASA has led in the development and application of many critically important space technologies. In addition, technological advances have yielded benefits far beyond space itself in down-to-Earth applications.
The technologies needed for the Apollo program were generally self-evident and driven by a clear and well-defined goal. In the modern era, the goals of the country’s broad space mission include multiple objectives, extensive involvement from both the public and private sectors, choices among multiple paths to different destinations,