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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH Executive Summary THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION PROGRAM The International Space Station (ISS) is one of the largest and most complex international technological projects in history. When completed, it will house seven crew members in a habitation and laboratory complex that is expected to be a truly international undertaking. The ISS will be serviced and staffed jointly by participating nations, and its operations will be governed by international agreements. It is expected to have an operational lifetime of 15 to 20 years, that is, until the year 2020. The operation of the ISS and conduct of research on it will involve an array of factors that make the endeavor more complex than previous space-based scientific and engineering endeavors. The ISS is expected to support research activities in such diverse fields as materials and combustion science, biology, biomedical science, space technology, Earth science, and high-energy physics. The research users are expected to come not only from academic and other nonprofit laboratories but also from privately financed industrial R&D organizations. In addition to the basic and applied science and engineering research mission that provides the primary justification for the ISS, NASA anticipates a strong applied commercial research component whose results are expected to be commercialized. This diversity of research gives rise to a range of special policy issues, e.g., the protection of proprietary data, the allocation of research resources among different disciplines, and the conduct of peer reviews and business reviews to permit informed allocation and award decisions. A more fundamental difference between the ISS and previous near-Earth orbital facilities is that the ISS is envisioned as a long-term, space-based research facility that will be occupied and utilized continuously by a changing contingent of operations and research staff. To be as successful as possible, the ISS will operate more like ground-based facilities than did previous orbital facilities. In its plan for the ISS (NASA, 1998), NASA proposed that a special nongovernment organization (NGO) be established outside the agency and its current formal organization to facilitate the recruitment, selection, planning, integration, and implementation of all U.S.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH research on the ISS. It developed a model for the proposed approach that would accomplish “an aggressive science, technology, and commercial development program while simultaneously limiting government functions to policy and oversight” (NASA, 1998, Attachment 3). NASA then sought advice from the National Research Council (NRC) on how to establish an institution (or institutions) that would meet these needs and on how to define the relative roles of NASA, other federal agencies, and any new NGOs that are created. In response to NASA's request, the Task Group to Review Alternative Institutional Arrangements for Space Station Research was formed under the auspices of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board. The task group was charged with examining general principles, major roles and functions, organizational character, and other aspects of alternative institutional arrangements for facilitating the conduct of research on the ISS and with making recommendations to NASA. The task group 's deliberations are outlined in Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3 through Chapter 4 of this report, and all major conclusions and recommendations are presented in Chapter 5. According to NASA, a scientific investigation—including selection and manifesting on the flight schedule; technical definition, design, development, and verification; and, finally, flight operations and data collection and analysis—takes 4 to 8 years to complete. The process includes, first, proposal evaluation and selection by NASA headquarters; experiment definition and feasibility analyses and reviews of the requirements by NASA discipline field centers; and a preliminary flight assignment by the ISS program office at the Johnson Space Center (JSC). Once the investigation has been authorized to proceed to full-scale development, the principal investigator, the NASA discipline lead center, or a third party may develop the flight hardware. Detailed plans and requirements are documented (with the assistance of the NASA field center), crew training begins, and the experiment undergoes reviews of preliminary design, critical design, and safety—all conducted by NASA. Prelaunch hardware integration and specimen preparations (if any) are conducted by the principal investigator, assisted by the payload developer, working with the ISS prime contractor and the space station program office at JSC. Following launch, flight operations are supported by the NASA discipline lead center. Data analysis and archiving are the responsibility of the principal investigator working under the oversight of the discipline lead center and NASA headquarters. GUIDING PRINCIPLES On the basis of discussions with NASA officials and its own deliberations, the task group concluded that the principal use of ISS would be for research. While there certainly will be other uses, both early in the program and over its lifetime—examples cited include education, staging for human space exploration expeditions, delivery of certain commercial services, possibly some manufacturing on a limited scale of very high-value products, or even advertising or tourism—none of these other uses appears to be ready to demand or justify a major fraction of ISS resources. Instead, for the foreseeable future they are candidates for secondary uses, or they remain unproven, or it is unclear how they will be handled. Research is the one clearly defined application that is ready to begin immediately and to be sustainable for a long time. For the purposes of this report, “research” includes basic scientific studies, applied research directed toward beneficial applications and commercial interests, engineering research, and advanced technology development. It does not include performance testing or monitoring of
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH operational systems on the ISS or the installation or evaluation of systems to upgrade ISS operational capacity. Nor does it include use of the ISS as an operational site in support of human exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit. Given that research is the main use of the ISS and recognizing that safety is the highest priority at all times, the following principles should guide the character and operations of any organization charged with facilitating the research use of the ISS: High-quality basic and applied research should be paramount. Responsibility for managing and supporting research would not require that the organization manage other ISS activities. The research user community should have early, substantive, and continuing involvement in all phases of planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating the research use of the ISS. The organization must be flexible and capable of adapting over time in response to changing needs and lessons learned. Basic and applied scientific and engineering users should be selected on the basis of their scientific and technical merit, as determined by peer review. The selection processes for space technology development and for commercial R&D would not need to be the same as those for scientific and engineering research, but they would have to meet similar standards. NASA officials indicated, and the task group agrees, that there are important operational objectives for the research support organization. Meeting those objectives would lead to a number of improvements with respect to the space shuttle and Spacelab programs: Enhanced understanding of and sensitivity to research users and uses; Shorter selection-to-flight cycle times; Lower end-to-end investigation costs; Streamlined processes and procedures; and Simpler investigator interfaces for initiation and conduct of research activities. The task group examined a range of alternative organizational approaches. One model entailed a minimal-change, process-improvement approach inside NASA; another entailed the creation of an independently chartered corporation that would take over the full ISS program. The task group concluded that the guiding principles and objectives noted above called for an intermediate approach: the establishment of an NGO, under the direction of institutions able to represent the broad research community, that would manage the research utilization aspects of the ISS. The task group does not recommend continuing the current arrangements inside NASA, for three reasons. First, NASA's past practice—focusing its efforts on advanced R&D and transferring long-term operations to the private sector—makes good sense for the long-term support of research on the ISS, especially since NASA's own workforce is shrinking. Second, research use of the ISS can be optimized with an organization run by and for researchers. Finally, the interests of the extraordinarily diverse set of research communities need to be coordinated by a single organization. At the other extreme, the concept of an independently chartered corporation that would have full responsibility for the entire ISS program was viewed
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH as too broad and ambitious and too disruptive of some activities that are now being handled satisfactorily to be appropriate for the time scale within which NASA needs to act. The NASA reference model provided an excellent starting point for an intermediate approach. Many of the components of the NASA reference model (Appendix E) would be appropriate for the NGO envisioned by the task group, and they were incorporated into the model recommended in this report. The task group also concluded that an appropriate approach for NASA is to plan an NGO whose role would be rather narrowly focused in the near term but able to expand in the long term to comprise a broader set of tasks. The task group recommended that the following three operational principles guide the establishment of the new organization in the near term: The proposed organization should concentrate its efforts on support of research needs and leave basic systems operations and maintenance activities to NASA. To fulfill its responsibilities, the organization must have clear authority and adequate funding. NASA must act promptly on the recommendations in this report to ensure that the NGO is actively involved before ISS “assembly complete.” STRUCTURE AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE ORGANIZATION To facilitate the broad utilization of the ISS for high-quality basic and applied research and technology development, the organization should be able to fill four key roles: Provide the highest caliber scientific and technical support to enhance research activities; Provide the research community with a single point of contact through which it can utilize the capabilities of the ISS; Promote the infusion of new technology for ISS research; and Stimulate new directions in research, for both established and new user communities. NASA should use a competitive process to select a consortium led by a research institution or group of institutions, governed by an independent board of directors, managed by a strong scientific director, and guided by an advisory process that is broadly representative of the research community. Locating the NGO near a major research facility (for example, near or on a campus) would have many advantages. The NGO should house a cadre of support scientists and engineers who would function in a number of ways: As points of contact for investigators in dealing with the NGO and other implementing ISS organizations both within and external to the government; As facilitators for investigators who are new to the complex world of using the ISS as well as for more experienced investigators; and As advocates who represent the interests of the investigators through the entire process of interface definition, payload development, testing and documentation, flight planning and operations, and postflight processing of results (where required).
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH This cadre should include ISS crew members, selected by the NGO, who would serve in much the same way as Spacelab payload specialists or mission specialists. The NGO should be responsible for fostering commercial research uses of the ISS as well as research by the academic science and engineering communities. To that end, the organization should Proactively explore and stimulate potential commercial uses; Assist the community of NASA commercial space centers (CSCs) in their use of the ISS; Include commercial representation in user groups and, where appropriate, broker funds between NASA and other sources to advance commercial research; and Establish clear policies and procedures for the protection of proprietary information and intellectual property. The task group recommends that for the organization to meet its responsibilities and to accomplish its mission effectively, it must have adequate authority and resources. The NGO would need to do the following: Manage the research utilization budget for experiments conducted by U.S. investigators; Participate in all decisions regarding the allocation and operational use of resources available for the ISS; Allocate ISS resources among government-sponsored and privately sponsored users, although it would not administer private-sector research funds; and Disburse funds not only to research investigators but also to research support organizations such as research hardware developers, payload integration contractors, and operations support organizations. NASA headquarters should continue to set policy, define top-level strategy, advocate and defend budgets in the federal budget process, and allocate overall funding for ISS operation and utilization. For the near term, headquarters also should retain responsibility for the coordination of research planning with other federal agencies and the international partners and should continue to solicit research proposals, conduct peer reviews, and select and prioritize investigations for research payloads for the ISS. The NGO would play a key role in assisting headquarters in these activities. Under the recommended model, the NGO would be responsible to NASA headquarters, through its governing board, for all other functions affecting the utilization of the ISS for U.S. research payloads. The NGO would also assume responsibility for coordinating joint or shared utilization of international payloads for which NASA had accepted any responsibility for development, launch, operations, maintenance, or recovery and would establish and maintain a close working relationship with all non-U.S, organizations approved for research on the ISS. Specifically, the NGO should be responsible for tactical and payload operations planning for all payloads under NASA management, for testing and analytical and physical integration of all NASA-approved payloads, for payload interface development and control, and for training crew to conduct research programs. It should take the lead in identifying new technologies and approaches to enhance the research utilization of the ISS and in planning for maintenance and
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH upgrades of research equipment and ISS support capabilities. It also should play an active role, on behalf of the user community, in areas where other organizations may have the lead, such as payload safety, transportation, station operations and maintenance, crew selection, and education and outreach. IMPLEMENTATION Because planning for the early phases of research use is already under way, it is urgent to bring an NGO on board. In the view of the task group, it will be very important to move expeditiously in FY 2001 to begin the transition and implementation process. NASA should plan on establishing an NGO in three phases: A near-term phase during which the NGO is selected and a director, science support staff, and scientific advisory council are recruited and brought on board; A transition phase during which roles now performed by the government are handed off to the NGO, the NGO takes the lead in planning for research activities that will begin at “assembly complete,” and the NGO begins to restructure and streamline the investigation flow process; and A longer-term phase during which the NGO might take on additional responsibilities and authority as the program reaches a steady state. In the view of the task group, the institutional approach recommended in this report would ensure an effective and efficient program to advance the research capabilities and other objectives of the ISS while preserving capabilities already established within NASA headquarters and field centers. The recommended organization is optimized to provide strong support for research utilization of the ISS because it will be established and run by the research community for the research community. The responsibilities for research support will be integrated in a single organization of critical mass that can attract high-caliber staff and that can integrate and coordinate the activities of a diverse collection of disciplines. The recommended organization would be an entity that is explicitly charged with providing service and advocacy on behalf of ISS research. There would be a clear and logical division of roles and functional responsibilities. First, the recommended approach leaves inherently governmental functions inside NASA and permits the NGO to provide assistance where appropriate. Second, it leaves unchanged other activities that are already being carried out effectively and that do not elicit any pressing arguments for reassignment. The recommended approach also has well-focused sets of responsibilities. Long-term research operations are placed in the private sector, leaving NASA free to pursue its traditional high-technology R&D roles. The recommended NGO is given the responsibility and authority to restructure and streamline the process of developing and integrating the scientific investigations. Finally, the recommended approach offers the flexibility for the organization to evolve as the ISS program itself evolves and matures. The recommended approach to implementation is incremental and anticipates transitions through immediate, mid-term, and long-term phases. By concentrating first on certain critical tasks and functions rather than trying to assume a large set
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH of responsibilities all at once, the NGO can gain experience and assume other duties if and when this is warranted. REFERENCE National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 1998. Commercial Development Plan for the International Space Station. November 16.
Representative terms from entire chapter: