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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH 5 Conclusions and Recommendations GUIDING PRINCIPLES In the course of this study, the task group received information about current plans for developing and operating the ISS, the anticipated scope of planned R&D activities on the ISS, and plans for international participation in the program. Based on discussions with NASA officials and other stakeholders and its own deliberations, the task group concluded that the principal use of the ISS will be to conduct research. While there certainly will be other uses of the ISS over its lifetime, including both traditional and novel applications for a space facility, 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 potential application that is ready to begin immediately and to be sustainable for the projected life of the ISS. For the purposes of this report, “research” includes basic scientific studies, applied research, engineering research, and advanced technology development. It does not include performance testing or monitoring of operational systems on the ISS or the installation or evaluation of systems to upgrade the operational capacity of the ISS. Nor does it include use of the ISS as an operational site in support of human exploration missions beyond low Earth orbit. Having established that research is the central driving use of the ISS and recognizing that safety is the highest priority, the task group articulated principles to guide NASA in creating the organization.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH Recommendation 1. NASA should let the following principles guide the definition and operation of an organization to facilitate research on the ISS: High-quality basic and applied research should be paramount. The primary mission of the chosen organization should be to foster, facilitate, and enhance the conduct of that research. The responsibility for managing and supporting research would not require the NGO to manage other ISS activities as well. While the unique aspects of serving the research user community lead to a unique role for a research support organization, other aspects of the overall ISS operation (e.g., maintenance and operations, nonresearch uses) could be accommodated separately. The research user community should have early, substantive, and continued involvement in all phases of the planning, design, and implementation of research. utilization of the ISS. The research support organization must be able to minimize the separation between the research community and the ISS program and to provide a user-friendly environment that enables faster, simpler access to the resources available to accomplish the research mission. The NGO must be flexible and capable of adapting over time in response to changing needs and lessons learned. It should anticipate change in its own structure and processes and in the composition of the research user community. The ISS would need to be supported by an organization that can learn and change, enhancing its performance by increasing productivity and efficiency without adding to the number or cost of transactions required to accomplish its work. Basic and applied scientific and engineering research users should be selected on the basis of scientific and technical merit, as determined by peer review. The selection processes for space technology development and for commercial R&D (which tend to be mission-driven and product-driven, respectively) need not be the same as those for scientific and engineering research. The task group examined alternative organizational approaches that ranged from a minimal change, process-improvement approach inside NASA to the creation of an independently chartered corporation that would take over the entire ISS program. It concluded that the objectives and principles discussed above would necessitate the establishment of a nongovernment organization (NGO) led by an institution or institutions capable of representing the broad research community and managing the research utilization of the ISS. Many of the components of the NASA reference model, which is attached as Appendix E and summarized in Chapter 3, are appropriate for the NGO envisioned by the task group and have been incorporated in the model recommended in this report. The task group also concluded that an appropriate approach for NASA would be to plan an NGO whose size and scope of responsibility grow over several years.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH Recommendation 2. Three operational principles should guide the establishment of the new organization in the near term: The proposed organization should concentrate on support of research needs and leave basic 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.” MISSION OF THE ORGANIZATION The basic structure and principal functions of the recommended organization need to be linked to its core mission, which would be to facilitate broad use of the ISS for high-quality basic and applied research and technology development. Recommendation 3. The principal roles of the organization should be the following: To provide the highest caliber scientific and technical support to enhance research activities; To provide the research community with a user-friendly single point of contact through which it can access the capabilities of the ISS; and To promote the infusion of new technology for ISS research and stimulate new directions in research. STRUCTURE AND GOVERNANCE Recommendation 4. 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, guided by an advisory process that is broadly representative of the research community, and reporting to the NASA structure at the highest level. More specifically, the task group suggested the following: The most appropriate organization would be an existing or new consortium comprising academic institutions, commercial enterprises, and engineering organizations. A research institution or consortium of research institutions should lead the effort, but it should be able to support potentially profit-making commercial functions as well as academic research. The organization should have a governing board whose responsibilities would include appointing the director of the NGO, fiduciary responsibility for the institution's assets, and ensuring that contract commitments are effectively executed. The director should be an internationally recognized leader in the research community who possesses the skills to recruit a first-rate staff, the competence to manage a large scientific
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH enterprise, and the ability to work effectively with leaders in the executive branch, Congress, and the media, and with the general public. The contract should be of finite duration and should specify renewal competitions at appropriate intervals. The organization should have a research advisory council whose members are appointed by the governing board to fixed-length, staggered terms. The main duty of the council should be to provide general advice to the director—and, through the director, to the governing board —on strategy, plans, international participation, facilities, staffing, and the overall scientific program. The director also should establish one or more user groups to focus on the operational concerns of ISS users, to apply lessons learned, and to identify utilization improvement opportunities. User group members should be drawn principally from the cadre of investigators who will have just completed experiments or who will be about to conduct them. LOCATION AND STAFFING Recommendation 5. It would be advantageous for the NGO to be physically located near a major research facility, for example, near or on a university campus. There should be provisions for technical and laboratory facilities to accommodate both the research support role of the organization and the needs of its technical staff. The organization should maximize the use of facilities and expertise that already exist within NASA programs, centers, and contractors. Recommendation 6. The NGO should have an in-house cadre of support scientists and engineers who serve as points of contact for an investigator in dealing with the NGO and other implementing ISS organizations both within and external to the government. The members of this cadre should act as facilitators for investigators who are new to the complex world of using the ISS as well as for investigators who are more experienced. They should represent the interests of the investigators throughout the process of interface definition, payload development, testing and documentation, flight planning and operations, and postflight processing of results. The cadre of support scientists would be a crucial resource of the NGO. The positions must attract and retain capable career researchers. Support scientists would be encouraged to propose their own investigations to be evaluated using the same standards as are used for extramural investigators. Some of the support scientists could be full-time employees of the NGO and others could be on temporary assignment from their home institutions; the cadre should include those astronauts whose primary on-orbit responsibilities were for support of research. Recommendation 7. NASA should consider adopting the Spacelab payload specialist model for the ISS. In this model, research crew members selected by the research community, in adherence to rigorous procedures, have primary responsibility for the support of on-orbit research operations. The NGO should be responsible for the recruitment, selection, and flight assignments of the ISS payload specialists.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH The astronauts will play an essential role in the conduct of research on the ISS. Because their qualifications, technical currency, general training in the use of research facilities, and training peculiar to a specific set of experiments are essential ingredients of a successful research program, crew members need to be viewed by the research community (and need to view themselves) as key members of the NGO staff. RELATIONS WITH COMMERCIAL USERS Recommendation 8. The NGO should foster use of the ISS for research not only by the academic science and engineering communities but also by commercial entities. To this end, the organization should Proactively explore and stimulate potential commercial uses; Assist the community of NASA commercial space centers (CSCs) in using the ISS; Develop well-defined criteria for commercial research activities; Include commercial representation in user groups, where appropriate; and Broker funds between NASA and other sources to advance commercial research. To create incentives and to encourage academic and commercial researchers to use the ISS, the organization would need to establish a clear policy for the protection of proprietary information and intellectual property. This policy would need to recognize the diversity of users and uses involved and provide a common policy for all publicly funded research. BUDGET AUTHORITY The organization would require adequate authority and resources to achieve its objectives. Recommendation 9. To be able to meet its responsibilities and to accomplish its mission, the organization should have the authority to do the following: Manage the research utilization budget for experiments conducted by U.S. investigators; Allocate ISS resources such as operational resources and services between government-sponsored and privately sponsored users; Disburse funds not only to research investigators but also to support organizations such as payload hardware developers, payload integration contractors, and operations support organizations; and Participate in the process by which overall resources are allocated for the ISS.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH SPECIFIC ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES The task group considered all the necessary activities and responsibilities and grouped them as follows: (a) those that should remain inside NASA, (b) those that could be implemented either within existing NASA organizations and contractors or by an NGO, and (c) those that could best be handled by an NGO. Recommendation 10. NASA headquarters should continue to set policy, define toplevel strategy, advocate and defend budgets in the federal budget process, and allocate overall funding for ISS operation and utilization. For the near term, it should retain responsibility for coordinating strategic 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 support role in strategic planning and in the solicitation and review of research proposals. NASA headquarters research offices would obtain funding for the implementation of research investigations and the development of associated investigator and facility hardware and would transfer the funds to the NGO for management and disbursement. The transfer of some of these responsibilities to the NGO at a later time should be an option. Under the recommended model, the NGO would be responsible to NASA headquarters for all other functions affecting the use of the ISS for U.S. research payloads. The NGO would also be responsible for coordinating joint or shared utilization for international payloads for which NASA accepts 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. Recommendation 11. The NGO should be responsible for tactical planning (including specific payload manifest planning), payload operations planning for all ISS payloads under NASA management, testing and analytical and physical integration of all NASA-approved payloads, payload interface development and control, and training the crew to conduct research programs. It should take the lead in identifying new technologies and approaches that would enhance the research use of the ISS and in planning for maintenance and upgrading of research equipment and of ISS support capabilities. It should also play an active role, on behalf of the user community, in areas where other organizations may have the lead: payload safety, transportation, station operations and maintenance, crew selection, and education and outreach. IMPLEMENTATION The ISS is already under construction on a schedule that calls for reaching “assembly complete” in 2004. Consequently, planning for the early phases of research utilization is already under way, and there is an urgency to bringing 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.
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INSTITUTIONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR SPACE STATION RESEARCH Recommendation 12. 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 and the skills, expertise, and performance of the NGO staff evolve. INTERNATIONAL PARTNERS Given the complexities of the existing management agreements among the international partners of the ISS, it would be premature for the task group to suggest specific guidelines for establishing productive relationships between the NGO and the international user communities. The agreement between the United States and the ISS international partners makes NASA the U.S. agency responsible for implementing ISS cooperation. Determining the extent to which NASA can legally delegate international cooperation activities to third parties exceeds the task group's abilities and charge. However, the international character of the ISS must be explicitly recognized and accepted, and the NGO's operations must reflect this reality. The task group recommends that the NGO be permitted to participate in international planning and coordination activities to the maximum extent that is consistent with the formal international agreements. To this end, having a senior official for international activities on the NGO staff who reports to the director might be appropriate. The NGO, working collaboratively with the international partners, must also strive to have all experiments, whatever their origin, follow a common pathway when it comes to ISS utilization. The task group expects that the intellectual excitement and ferment at the NGO would make it a desirable place to visit and one to which international users of the ISS would wish to attach themselves for extended stays. STRENGTHS OF THE RECOMMENDED APPROACH In the view of the task group, the model for an NGO outlined in this and earlier chapters would go far in meeting NASA's objectives. The strengths of the recommended approach include its strong support for research, logical division of roles, well-focused responsibilities, and flexibility for evolution.
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