3
Summary Of Findings

The workshop participants concluded that the challenge in reducing space science mission costs is that there is no one "prescription" that can be applied to the wide variety of circumstances associated with the public funding of science. This report summarizes two days of discussions and the findings of the four working groups. A synopsis of each working group's findings is included in Appendix D. The invited papers in Appendix C contain much of the data used by workshop participants in their analyses. The workshop participants also had access to the results of many previous studies and workshops that had addressed the issue of cost reduction for space science research; these materials are listed in Appendix E.

The workshop results are categorized under the major topics of policy, the national space science mission, mission requirements, programmatics and acquisition strategies, recognition and management of risk, and the influence of new technology. These topics are addressed in descending order of importance and influence on the cost of space science research missions as agreed by the workshop participants.

Effect Of Policy Mandates

Behind all missions is a fundamental belief that public investment in creating new knowledge is a worthwhile objective. Science missions usually begin with the basic objective of advancing scientific knowledge rather than enhancing national prestige or promoting societal benefits. This approach to mission objectives, preferred by scientists, may not demonstrate clearly the value of the public investment to nonscientists or provide a basis for articulating national space science policy.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 7
--> 3 Summary Of Findings The workshop participants concluded that the challenge in reducing space science mission costs is that there is no one "prescription" that can be applied to the wide variety of circumstances associated with the public funding of science. This report summarizes two days of discussions and the findings of the four working groups. A synopsis of each working group's findings is included in Appendix D. The invited papers in Appendix C contain much of the data used by workshop participants in their analyses. The workshop participants also had access to the results of many previous studies and workshops that had addressed the issue of cost reduction for space science research; these materials are listed in Appendix E. The workshop results are categorized under the major topics of policy, the national space science mission, mission requirements, programmatics and acquisition strategies, recognition and management of risk, and the influence of new technology. These topics are addressed in descending order of importance and influence on the cost of space science research missions as agreed by the workshop participants. Effect Of Policy Mandates Behind all missions is a fundamental belief that public investment in creating new knowledge is a worthwhile objective. Science missions usually begin with the basic objective of advancing scientific knowledge rather than enhancing national prestige or promoting societal benefits. This approach to mission objectives, preferred by scientists, may not demonstrate clearly the value of the public investment to nonscientists or provide a basis for articulating national space science policy.

OCR for page 7
--> Mission definitions are influenced strongly by national policy as defined by the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Interpretation of the policy by the procuring agency, particularly the definition and acceptability of risk, can affect the mission definition. Also at play may be parallel agendas in government agencies, the Congress, or the scientific community. Perhaps the foremost example was the short-lived national policy of the early 1980s that the Space Shuttle would be the sole U.S. launch system and that expendable launch vehicles would no longer be available for scientific payloads (NSDD, 1981, 1982). Often policies that have a worthwhile objective result in unintended consequences when they are applied inflexibly. Examples include policy decisions affecting launch vehicle selection, such as the Space Shuttle policy mentioned above or restricting the use of non-U.S. launch vehicles. This policy can have a negative effect on mission cost. In this context, the consensus of the workshop and of the steering committee was that "buy American" policies frequently preclude mission savings that might be otherwise achievable. All four working groups believed that when national policies and political mandates impose requirements on individual scientific missions, there must also be serious consideration of longer-term scientific goals. Only then can there be major reductions in mission costs. Understanding The National Space Science Mission An articulated national policy and plan that identifies both near-term and long-range goals for the gradual exploration of space and the enhancement of the body of space science knowledge can provide a framework for increased public acceptance of and congressional support for the science program (NRC, 1995a). The scientific community shares responsibility with government for developing space science goals and for educating the public on the benefits of the scientific knowledge to be gained. The executive branch articulates these scientific goals within the broader framework of a national policy and recommends the adoption of an implementation plan that can satisfy the goals within realistic cost and schedule constraints. In times of decreasing budgets competition between agencies for funds is to be expected. However, competition often continues at the intra-agency level, which may have a negative impact on both cost and productivity. The workshop participants strongly believe that agency heads will have to work harder to eliminate internal rivalry and achieve agency consensus on priorities to achieve cost savings. Clear Definition Of Requirements Clear objectives and priorities with associated rationale are essential to reducing mission costs. Early in the process, objectives and their relative priorities are translated into mission or spacecraft requirements. Mission success or failure

OCR for page 7
--> can be the result of decisions made in the first few days of mission definition (Rechtin, Appendix C). Requirements are not always well thought out, logically consistent, or communicated to all team members (Rechtin, Appendix C). "Good" science ought to be the primary requirement of any space science mission and the basis for the definition of success. The workshop participants stressed that science can be overwhelmed by technical and programmatic decisions if the scientists are not included in the decision-making process. This may have an impact on both cost and product. Realizable science mission requirements can be promoted by an integrated team approach that actively involves scientists, spacecraft designers, and operations personnel in the requirements definition process. The team should also be given the authority to make necessary trade-offs throughout the project in order to achieve the scientific objectives within the budget constraints (NRC, 1995b). As noted in Managing the Space Sciences (NRC, 1995a): The synergism of talents that is possible in team environments has proven equally effective with flight projects. The necessary compromises and mutual learning among scientists and engineers can best be realized in these team settings where everyone understands the enabling value of new technologies and recognizes that science and technology are mutually supportive in ensuring the vitality of the space sciences (p. 63). One of the workshop groups noted that "requirements without rationale are overly constraining—and constraint usually translates to increased cost." Arbitrary requirements can take the form of preselection of the launch vehicle, the spacecraft bus, the payload, the data rate, or the management and operations structures (NRC, 1995b). For example, rather than articulating the basic scientific goal to be realized by the mission, a typical space science research announcement may specify the type of instrument to be flown, as well as the information that it must gather (e.g., a specific instrument to take a specific measurement). Other workshop participants expressed the view that mission success can be defined "when there is mutual agreement that a complete, passable set of acceptable criteria has been developed for a plausible system." Workshop participants also expressed the view that, in many industries affected by declining budgets, the definition of ''acceptable" versus ''best" is a key element in reducing cost. Defining how much quality is needed, or how much "science" is enough, is fundamental to holding down mission costs and avoiding unnecessarily restrictive requirements. Requirements of a program to deliver space science research at a reduced cost may include a "cost cap."1 However "For a cost not to exceed $150 million, 1   For example, cost caps have been included in the following: the Discovery Program Announcement of Opportunity (AO), dated September 20, 1996, which shows a FY97 "cost constraint" of $193 million; the Earth System Science Pathfinder missions AO, dated July 19, 1996, which has a $140 million "cost cap"; and the Medium-Class Explorer missions AO, dated March 27, 1995, which has a $70 million "cost cap."

OCR for page 7
--> what is the best science that can be done?" is very different from the question, "What is the cost of the best, focused science that can be done to address this area of research or to answer this question?" The former question may lead to mission requirements that preclude the "best, focused science" of the latter. And neither approach addresses the issue of the total science delivered versus the total costs over the life of a program. Workshop participants expressed the concern that, although the cost cap seems an obvious route to "smaller, faster, cheaper" science missions, the tradeoff of science performance per total program dollar is not addressed adequately. Although space science has always been limited by the availability of funds, certain types of scientific objectives, such as those requiring large optics, cannot be accomplished within an across-the-board cost cap. The working groups concluded that an arbitrary cost cap may lead not to the best science, or even to the best science for the dollar, but to the best science that fits the amount of money available. The tendency to overspecify when defining requirements can lead to a point design that is focused on satisfying the requirements rather than achieving mission goals. Overspecification can prevent developers from proposing more than one solution to achieve desired scientific mission goals. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has recently adopted what was regarded by workshop participants as an enlightened procurement strategy of providing potential contractors with specifications of technical need, allowing the respondents to define a system that meets the need, and promoting the highest degree of flexibility, including nontraditional solutions such as "buy, not build" (Wertz and Larson, 1996; Rechtin, Appendix C). Once the rationale has been established for the various program and mission requirements, it should be published along with the requirements so that further decisions will be in keeping with the underlying philosophy and rationale. Further down the road, this can mean that changes will be less likely to have unintended consequences. Programmatics And Acquisition Strategies In addition to good engineering principles, the administration and oversight of a program need to include early definition of an operations concept, thoughtful procurement strategies, and concurrent engineering techniques (i.e., an integrated approach to designing, building, and operating a spacecraft). In Technology for Small Spacecraft (NRC, 1994), it was noted that the initial phase of a mission is important in establishing cost-control methods and limits prior to decisions regarding the use of new and existing technology, systems engineering and operations, and management style. Mission schedule and duration, overall mission funding, and the use of commercially developed and supported technologies are also key early decisions that have an impact on cost (NRC, 1994). These decisions

OCR for page 7
--> should be made in the early conceptual and definition phase before commitment to a spacecraft configuration and design approach is made. Flexibility in decision making and fiscal stability contribute to effective program management. Lower cost space science is achievable if program managers have the authority to make decisions such as choice of the launch vehicle, whether to make or buy, contracting for services, and whether to participate in joint programs with other agencies (e.g., DOD, international). The workshop consensus was that stable, multiyear funding can contribute greatly to program success. If the program has adequate funding throughout its life, savings can be realized by end-to-end planning. The working groups emphasized the importance of developing and articulating an operations concept in the early study phase of the program and updating it as the project moves toward building operational hardware. A validated operational concept makes possible analyses of options and decisions on allocating tasks to ground and space elements, defining products, and data flow. In describing an end-to-end design, development, and procurement policy, one of the working groups noted that decisions made without an overall understanding of mission goals and objectives are counterproductive. A policy to require programs to make sensible trade-offs before design, development, and operational decisions are made is important for both the government and the space science community (NRC, 1995b). Workshop groups observed that, in many cases, the spacecraft, payload, and launch vehicle teams working on designing a mission virtually "throw their work over the transom" to the manufacturing teams rather than coordinating their efforts. Concurrent engineering can prevent problems and reduce costs through the maximum (and timely) exchange of technical, management, and cost information (NRC, 1995b). In addition, the working groups believed that the inclusion of the scientist or principal investigator on these teams is instrumental to balancing scientific and technological trade-offs. Cost trade-off studies at the program level could also consider technology and hardware from the growing commercial space infrastructure. For example, infrastructure costs, such as launch, mission ground control, and retrieval and distribution of scientific data—the life-cycle costs—an often be lowered significantly by using commercially available products and services instead of duplicating them in-house. The recent DOD experience of introducing commercial off-the-shelf elements into military specification systems is also relevant (Wertz and Larson, 1996; Sarsfield, Appendix C). Although concerns over government procurement systems are not new, participants believed it was worthwhile to rearticulate them in light of the current government emphasis on eliminating bureaucratic waste. Revisions in the Federal Acquisition Regulations could facilitate multiyear funding to meet the demands of rapid deployment and cost control. This was successfully demonstrated as a cost-savings strategy in the development of the Global Positioning System

OCR for page 7
--> (NRC, 1995b). Workshop participants agree that such revisions are highly desirable for programs involving space science missions. Risk-Informed Decisions Failures in science missions can result from a variety of causes, such as a spacecraft failure (Mars Observer), a launch failure (Mars '96), or a budgetary problem (Comet Rendezvous/Asteroid Flyby). In some cases, mission capabilities can be seriously degraded by simple mechanical failures that occur after launch (for example, the Galileo high gain antenna). The current NASA Strategic Plan states that the space science program can accept higher levels of risk in order to lower mission costs (NASA, 1996). Although program managers are ostensibly encouraged to apply new techniques and advanced hardware and software, they and spacecraft engineers are often reluctant to put their program and their careers at risk by using new technologies. They prefer to minimize risk and mitigate against failure by relying on older, proven technologies and occasionally by overengineering the spacecraft. Innovation in technologies and design can be realized only in a climate of mutual trust, with acknowledgment by all parties, including Congress and the procuring agencies, that space missions are inherently risky and that, despite all precautions, some losses will occur. Some risks inherent in space missions are unique. Plans that do not recognize and articulate these risks make it extremely difficult to assign proper value to space science investments. The consensus of the workshop and this committee is that risks should be stated clearly and that risk mitigation plans be identified early. The risk mitigation plans may both define the acceptable level of risk in a given mission and establish methods for addressing risk throughout the program. The working groups believed that risk assessments could be expanded to include not only technical risks but also programmatic risks (e.g., changes in national policy and congressionally mandated budget cuts, schedule delays, and unforeseen expenses). Risk-informed decisions are possible when there are clear mission goals and when a well understood risk evaluation framework is in place. Inclusion Of Advanced Technology The major cost drivers in spacecraft are size, weight, and power. The continual search for and recent emphasis on space technology that will support the development of lighter weight, smaller systems have resulted in a diverse inventory of space-qualified technologies (Wertz and Larson, 1996). Workshop participants noted that small spacecraft missions in such programs as Discovery, Pathfinder, and Explorer can be considered forerunners. In NASA's recent generation of small satellites, the agency has taken advantage of past technology investments, including investments by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, and industry. In addition,

OCR for page 7
--> NASA's New Millennium program is intended to fill the need for new technology testing and application (Redd, Appendix C). However, the reduction of budgets dedicated for technology research and development budgets raised general concern among workshop participants about the future of research and development in this area. Workshop participants pointed out that even though a small spacecraft may be launched on a less expensive launch vehicle than a large spacecraft, the cost saving may be offset by the cost of technology miniaturization and packaging, as well as by capital investments for tooling, new facilities, and training and certification. Miniaturized technology in the space science context connotes costly investments in research and development. Thus, small spacecraft with scientific capabilities comparable to their larger counterparts may not always be cheaper, even including savings in launch costs. Multiple spacecraft in constellations may distribute the risk among several spacecraft and launch vehicles but may not actually cost less than a large spacecraft with the same scientific capability (NRC, 1994). The working groups also agreed that smaller spacecraft should not necessarily be expected to deliver the same science for less money. There are two factors that may prevent an improvement in the cost-benefit ratio when reducing the size and cost of space science research. The first is that some instruments cannot be reduced in size within current funding constraints. For example, to obtain a specific optical resolution, the mirrors or lenses on a space telescope must meet or exceed the size set by the diffraction limit and the technology available at the time. Thus, some important studies cannot be performed by small spacecraft because of physical limits and a lack of funds for new technology development. Second, economies of scale may be achieved on large spacecraft. That is, the science performance-cost ratio may be higher for large spacecraft than for small spacecraft, despite higher launch costs (Sarsfield, Appendix C). One participant noted that if the "best" science involves sending ten instruments to a planet, then co-locating all ten on one platform may well be cheaper than sending them on ten small spacecraft. A widespread concern is the transition of available advanced technology into operational missions. Project managers are reluctant to specify non-space-qualified subsystems for their missions because of the risk of failure. Funding for proof of concept and space qualification has been, and remains, difficult to obtain. The upcoming availability of the International Space Station for engineering research may help alleviate the problem of space qualification in some areas. (This is discussed in detail in the 1996 NRC report, Engineering Research and Technology Development on the Space Station.) In general, because technology advances require significant up-front investment in research and development, workshop participants believe that consideration ought to be given first to existing technology (worldwide) and then to new technology that will reduce cost, enable new or better capabilities, or facilitate scientific results (Redd, Appendix C).

OCR for page 7
--> Workshop participants noted that utilizing standardized mechanical and electronic architectures at the interface level—as opposed to the spacecraft bus level—can reduce costs substantially without overly constraining design options. Standardization can significantly reduce nonrecurring engineering and design expenses while permitting the development of unique or specialized instruments. Flexible designs within standard architecture and interface formats can allow early integration of hardware, software, and computers. The ground-based infrastructure required for satellite control and mission data retrieval represents a major component of mission costs over the life cycle of the program. The participants noted that ground control and data retrieval costs can exceed the costs of space hardware development and launch. Therefore, savings in launch costs may represent a small fraction of the total mission cost. Workshop participants noted that a mission's ground control and, thus, life-cycle costs could be reduced by on-board systems that increase satellite autonomy (NRC, 1994). Although technologies to support both simple autonomous operations (e.g., routine, repetitive processes, such as orbit and attitude determination) and more complex operations (such as problem detection, identification, and resolution) are advancing, autonomous satellite operation has not achieved the degree of acceptance that will be necessary to realize major cost savings. This is directly related to the problem of risk acceptance (discussed above). In addition to the use of more advanced technologies, possible cost-reduction strategies include out-sourcing, using available commercial installations, and consolidating program facilities to realize economies of scale (Larson, Appendix C; Sarsfield, Appendix C).