committee or the panels. Rather, research supported by the NIAC program will complement the more substantial efforts that are necessary to investigate high-priority technologies at a higher TRL. The NIAC approach is also appropriate to meet the policy objectives of enhancing the education of future scientists and engineers and facilitating international collaboration in the development of low-TRL technology.

Recommendation. Foundational Technology Base. OCT should reestablish a discipline-oriented technology base program that pursues both evolutionary and revolutionary advances in technological capabilities and that draws upon the expertise of NASA centers and laboratories, other federal laboratories, industry, and academia.


Programs such as the International Space Station (ISS) demonstrate the benefit of interagency and international cooperation at the mission level. The development of many technologies relevant to NASA is supported and/or conducted by other federal agencies, foreign governments, industry, and academic institutions. In many cases NASA is already cooperating with other organizations to develop critical new technologies and/or adapt the results of work by others to meet NASA’s needs. NASA’s 2011 Strategic Plan confirms NASA’s intent to continue such cooperation, noting that NASA should “facilitate the transfer of NASA technology and engage in partnerships with other government agencies, industry, and international entities to generate U.S. commercial activity and other public benefits” while “expanding partnerships with international, intergovernmental, academic, industrial, and entrepreneurial communities and recognizing their role as important contributors of skill and creativity to our missions and for the propagation of results” (NASA, 2011, p. 3-5). Department of Defense research laboratories have space technology development efforts that the workshops identified as areas where collaboration with OCT would be mutually beneficial. Europe has made significant long-term investments in basic and industrial research to advance and sustain its space program. Similarly, the space programs of Japan and other Asian countries are also advancing rapidly. NASA’s technology roadmaps would be more valuable and actionable if they provided more detail about how various goals might be accomplished through partnerships with outside organizations.

With some technologies, international partnerships are hampered by limitations imposed by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Even so, technology development efforts by OCT provide a new opportunity for NASA to engage in cooperative development of new technologies. This cooperation could enable NASA to achieve more of its technological goals with available funding, in part by drawing on the available specialized expertise and prior investments made elsewhere.

NASA recognizes that resource constraints of funding and staffing will always be a limiting factor to carrying out all technology development recommended by the roadmaps. Accordingly, cooperative development of applicable high-priority technologies with other organizations will expand the scope of advanced technologies that will be available to future missions.

Recommendation. Cooperative Development of New Technologies. OCT should pursue cooperative development of high-priority technologies with other federal agencies, foreign governments, industry, and academic institutions to leverage resources available for technology development.


Testing and demonstrating new space technologies under realistic flight conditions are always desirable. The steering committee makes a distinction between flight testing and flight demonstrations: flight testing deals with acquiring performance data at any TRL below 6 that happens be in flight, and flight demonstration deals with the TRL 6 validation of a system or subsystem performance to confirm technology readiness and level of risk to the satisfaction of those who will decide to incorporate the technology in a mission.

Flight testing is needed to validate the maturity of technologies when ground-based testing and/or modeling and simulation (M&S) are inadequate. It can also (1) increase the visibility of new technologies with mission offices regarding the potential of the technology to meet mission needs in terms of performance and reliability in a way

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement