Commercial production buses offer the potential for reducing costs. However, they generally have to be tailored—with attendant costs—to accommodate existing Earth observation payloads. Designing new payloads to match existing bus capabilities offers greater cost-effectiveness, but caution must be exercised not to compromise the scientific mission in doing so. NASA's Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition Initiative exemplifies an innovative approach to matching existing spacecraft buses to payload accommodation requirements.

Efforts should continue to reduce bus volume, mass, and power, and to increase communications and data handling capacity, such that larger fractions of launch vehicle performance and fairings are made available to more demanding payloads. Lowest cost will be achieved when satellite size is matched to payload requirements and launch vehicles are matched to the satellite.


National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 1997. Rapid Spacecraft Procurement Initiative, RFP 5-02816-001. Greenbelt, Md.: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

National Research Council (NRC). 1994. Technology for Small Spacecraft. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

———. 1997. Reducing the Costs of Space Science Research Missions. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Rapid Spacecraft Development Office (RSDO). 1999. Available online at <>.

Sarsfield, L. 1997. The Cosmos on a Shoe String: Small Spacecraft for Space and Earth Science. MR-864-OSTP. Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND, Critical Technologies Institute.

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