The panel identified three top technical challenges for TA05. They are listed below in priority order.

1. Autonomous and Accurate Navigation: Meet the navigation needs of projected NASA missions by developing means for more autonomous and accurate absolute and relative navigation.

NASA’s future missions show a diverse set of navigational challenges that cannot be supported with current methods. Precision position knowledge, trajectory determination, cooperative flight, trajectory traverse, and rendezvous with small bodies are just some of the challenges that populate these concepts. In addition, NASA spacecraft will need to do these things farther from Earth and more autonomously. Proper technology investment can solve these challenges and even suggest new mission concepts.

2. Communications Constraint Mitigation: Minimize communication data rate and range constraints that impact planning and execution of future NASA space missions.

A recent analysis of NASA’s likely future mission set indicates that communications performance will need to grow by about a factor of ten every ~15 years just to keep up with projected robotic mission requirements. A second dimension of the challenge is measured simply in bits per second. History has shown that NASA missions tend to return more data with time according to an exponential “Moore’s law.” Missions will continue to be constrained by the legally allocated international spectral bandwidth. NASA’s S-band is already overcrowded and there are encroachments at other bands.

Many of the complex things future missions will need to do are hampered by keeping Earth in the real-time decision loop. Often, a direct link to Earth may not even be available when such decisions are desired. This can be mitigated by making decisions closer to the platform—minimizing reliance on Earth operations. Advancements in communications and navigation infrastructure will allow information to be gathered locally and computation to be performed either in the spacecraft or shared with nearby nodes. Clearly this goal is coupled with the need for increased autonomy and flight computing.

3. Information Delivery: Provide integrity and assurance of information delivery across the solar system.

Future missions will include international partnerships and increased public interaction. This will imply increased vulnerability to information compromise. As mentioned in the 2012 Science and Technology Priorities Memo from the White House, NASA needs to “Support cybersecurity R&D to investigate novel means for designing and developing trustworthy cyberspace—a system of defensible subsystems that operate safely in an environment that is presumed to be compromised.” As internetworking extends throughout the solar system, the communications architecture needs to operate in a safe and secure manner.


The process used to evaluate the level 3 technologies is described in detail in Chapter 2. The results of the evaluation are shown in Figures H.1 and H.2, which show the relative ranking of each technology. The panel assessed four of the technologies as high priority. Three of these were selected based on their QFD scores, which significantly exceeded the scores of lower ranked technologies. After careful consideration, the panel also designated 5.5.1 Radio Systems as a high-priority technology.2


2In recognition that the QFD process could not accurately quantify all of the attributes of a given technology, after the QFD scores were compiled, the panels in some cases designated some technologies as high priority even if their scores were not comparable to the scores of other high-priority technologies. The justification for the high-priority designation of all the high-priority technologies for TA05 appears in the section titled “High Priority Level 3 Technologies,” below

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