CONTROLLING COST GROWTH OF NASA EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE MISSIONS
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES PRESS
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report was approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for the report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance.
This study is based on work supported by Contract NNH06CE15B between the National Academy of Sciences and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the agency that provided support for the project.
International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-309-15737-7
International Standard Book Number-10: 0-309-15737-4
Cover: Cover design by Tim Warchocki.
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THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES
Advisers to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences.
The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Charles M. Vest is president of the National Academy of Engineering.
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The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy’s purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. Charles M. Vest are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council.
OTHER REPORTS OF THE SPACE STUDIES BOARD
Defending Planet Earth: Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Final Report (Space Studies Board [SSB] with the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board [ASEB], 2010)
An Enabling Foundation for NASA’s Space and Earth Science Missions (SSB, 2010)
Revitalizing NASA’s Suborbital Program: Advancing Science, Driving Innovation, and Developing a Workforce (SSB, 2010)
America’s Future in Space: Aligning the Civil Space Program with National Needs (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Approaches to Future Space Cooperation and Competition in a Globalizing World: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Assessment of Planetary Protection Requirements for Mars Sample Return Missions (SSB, 2009)
Near-Earth Object Surveys and Hazard Mitigation Strategies: Interim Report (SSB, 2009)
A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Heliophysics Program (SSB, 2009)
Radioisotope Power Systems: An Imperative for Maintaining U.S. Leadership in Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2009)
Ensuring the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: Elements of a Strategy to Recover Measurement Capabilities Lost in Program Restructuring (SSB, 2008)
Launching Science: Science Opportunities Provided by NASA’s Constellation System (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Opening New Frontiers in Space: Choices for the Next New Frontiers Announcement of Opportunity (SSB, 2008)
Science Opportunities Enabled by NASA’s Constellation System: Interim Report (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Severe Space Weather Events—Understanding Societal and Economic Impacts: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2008)
Space Science and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations: Summary of a Workshop (SSB, 2008)
United States Civil Space Policy: Summary of a Workshop (SSB with ASEB, 2008)
Assessment of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (SSB, 2007)
An Astrobiology Strategy for the Exploration of Mars (SSB with the Board on Life Sciences [BLS], 2007)
Building a Better NASA Workforce: Meeting the Workforce Needs for the National Vision for Space Exploration (SSB with ASEB, 2007)
Decadal Science Strategy Surveys: Report of a Workshop (SSB, 2007)
Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (SSB, 2007)
Exploring Organic Environments in the Solar System (SSB with the Board on Chemical Sciences and Technology, 2007)
Grading NASA’s Solar System Exploration Program: A Midterm Review (SSB, 2007)
The Limits of Organic Life in Planetary Systems (SSB with BLS, 2007)
NASA’s Beyond Einstein Program: An Architecture for Implementation (SSB with the Board on Physics and Astronomy [BPA], 2007)
Options to Ensure the Climate Record from the NPOESS and GOES-R Spacecraft: A Workshop Report (SSB, 2007)
A Performance Assessment of NASA’s Astrophysics Program (SSB with BPA, 2007)
Portals to the Universe: The NASA Astronomy Science Centers (SSB, 2007)
The Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon (SSB, 2007)
Limited copies of SSB reports are available free of charge from:
Space Studies Board
National Research Council
The Keck Center of the National Academies
500 Fifth Street, N.W., Washington, DC 20001
COMMITTEE ON COST GROWTH IN NASA EARTH AND SPACE SCIENCE MISSIONS
RONALD M. SEGA,
Colorado State University,
University of California, Los Angeles
ROBERT E. BITTEN,1
The Aerospace Corporation
ALLAN V. BURMAN,
Jefferson Consulting Group, LLC
OLIVIER L. de WECK,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
ROBERT E. DEEMER,
LARRY W. ESPOSITO,
University of Colorado, Boulder
JOSEPH FULLER, JR.,
JOSEPH W. HAMAKER,
Science Applications International Corporation
VICTORIA E. HAMILTON,
Southwest Research Institute
JOHN M. KLINEBERG, Aerospace Consultant
ROBERT P. LIN,2
University of California, Berkeley
BRUCE D. MARCUS,
TRW Inc. (Retired)
EMERY I. REEVES, Independent Consultant
WILLIAM F. TOWNSEND, Independent Consultant
ALAN C. ANGLEMAN, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
CATHERINE A. GRUBER, Editor
ANDREA M. REBHOLZ, Program Associate
LINDA WALKER, Senior Project Assistant
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
CHARLES F. KENNEL,
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego,
A. THOMAS YOUNG,
Lockheed Martin Corporation (retired),
DANIEL N. BAKER,
University of Colorado
STEVEN J. BATTEL,
CHARLES L. BENNETT,
Johns Hopkins University
YVONNE C. BRILL, Aerospace Consultant
ELIZABETH R. CANTWELL,
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
ANDREW B. CHRISTENSEN,
Dixie State College and Aerospace Corporation
The Observatories of the Carnegie Institution
JACK D. FELLOWS,
University Corporation for Atmospheric Research
FIONA A. HARRISON,
California Institute of Technology
U.S. Naval War College
University of Hawaii
MOLLY K. MACAULEY,
Resources for the Future
BERRIEN MOORE III,
ROBERT T. PAPPALARDO,
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
Pennsylvania State University
University of California, Irvine
JOSEPH F. VEVERKA,
WARREN M. WASHINGTON,
National Center for Atmospheric Research
CHARLES E. WOODWARD,
University of Minnesota
ELLEN G. ZWEIBEL,
University of Wisconsin
MICHAEL H. MOLONEY, Director (from April 1, 2010)
RICHARD E. ROWBERG, Interim Director (until March 31, 2010)
CARMELA J. CHAMBERLAIN, Administrative Coordinator
TANJA PILZAK, Manager,
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
CHRISTINA O. SHIPMAN, Financial Officer
SANDRA WILSON, Financial Assistant
Cost and schedule growth is a problem experienced by many types of projects in many fields of endeavors. Based on prior studies of cost growth in National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Defense projects, this report identifies specific causes of cost growth associated with NASA Earth and space science missions and provides guidance on how NASA can overcome these specific problems. The study was prompted by the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-422), which directed the NASA administrator to sponsor an “independent external assessment to identify the primary causes of cost growth in the large-, medium-, and small-sized space and Earth science spacecraft mission classes, and make recommendations as to what changes, if any, should be made to contain costs and ensure frequent mission opportunities in NASA’s science spacecraft mission programs.” The NASA Science Mission Directorate subsequently made arrangements with the National Research Council to conduct a study that would execute the following statement of task (see Appendix A):
The National Research Council will assemble a committee to identify the primary causes of cost growth in NASA Earth and space science missions involving large, medium, and small spacecraft. The committee will recommend what changes, if any, should be made to contain costs and ensure frequent mission opportunities in NASA’s Earth and space science programs. In particular, the committee will:
Review existing cost growth studies related to NASA space and Earth science missions and identify their key causes of cost growth and strategies for mitigating cost growth.
Assess whether those key causes remain applicable in the current environment and identify any new major causes.
Evaluate the effectiveness of current and planned NASA cost growth mitigation strategies and, as appropriate, recommend new strategies to ensure frequent mission opportunities.
In making this assessment and related recommendations, the committee should note relevant differences, if any, that exist between Earth and space science missions.
The recommendations in this report focus on changes in NASA policies that would directly reduce or eliminate the cost growth of Earth and space science missions. This report does not assess trends in the average cost of missions from year to year or decade to decade, nor does it explicitly address the broader issue of how missions are selected or how the baseline cost of NASA Earth and space science missions might be reduced, for example, by changes in general policies regarding export controls or management of NASA personnel, contracting, or center organization. The committee was not specifically tasked with addressing schedule growth but, as detailed
in the report, schedule growth causes cost growth, and so schedule growth is addressed in some findings and recommendations.
The Committee on Cost Growth in NASA Earth and Space Science Missions was established to conduct this study and has extensive experience in Earth science, space science, and space exploration, including management of industry and NASA centers, spacecraft operations, piloted and robotic spacecraft, spacecraft systems, NASA cost estimating, and federal procurement and acquisition processes (see Appendix B). The committee met four times, including a meeting in Washington, D.C., with extensive briefings from NASA and a meeting at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, which included discussions with staff from the Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, the U.S. Air Force, and industry (Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman). The findings and recommendations contained in this report are based as much on the experience and discernment of the individual committee members as on the contents of the earlier studies and other information collected and reviewed by the committee.
Large cost growth is a concern for Earth and space science missions, and it can be a concern for other missions as well. If the cost growth is large enough, it can create liquidity problems for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate that in turn cause cost profile changes and development delays that amplify the overall cost growth for other concurrent and/or pending missions. Addressing cost growth through the allocation of artificially high reserves is an inefficient use of resources because it unnecessarily diminishes the portfolio of planned flights. The most efficient use of resources is to establish realistic budgets and reserves and effective management processes that maximize the likelihood that mission costs will not exceed reserves. NASA is already taking action to reduce cost growth; additional steps, as recommended herein, will help improve NASA’s mission planning process and achieve the goal of ensuring frequent mission opportunities for NASA Earth and space science.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This report has been reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Report Review Committee of the National Research Council (NRC). The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the institution in making its published report as sound as possible and to ensure that the report meets institutional standards for objectivity, evidence, and responsiveness to the study charge. The review comments and draft manuscript remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. We wish to thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
James G. Anderson, Harvard University,
Steven J. Battel, Battel Engineering,
David A. Bearden, The Aerospace Corporation,
Dale Jorgenson, Harvard University,
Cato T. Laurencin, University of Connecticut,
Marcia J. Rieke, University of Arizona,
Christopher Russell, University of California, Los Angeles,
James M. Russell III, Hampton University, and
Gerald Joseph Wasserburg, California Institute of Technology (professor emeritus).
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations, nor did they see the final draft of the report before its release. The review of this report was overseen by W. Carl Lineberger, University of Colorado, Boulder, and Edward F. Crawley, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Appointed by the NRC, they were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with institutional procedures and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of this report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the institution.