Cost Cap and Launch Vehicle
The responses from the community to the question of whether the cost cap or the launch vehicle was more constraining indicated that the cost cap might be more constraining, but, given the incomplete nature of the survey, such a conclusion is not warranted (see Appendix C). However, the following themes emerged:
- Mission risk, timescale, and technology development. It was noted in some of the inputs that the cost cap and the limited risk allowance for SMEX missions precludes the inclusion of new, low-heritage technologies. This problem can be ameliorated by continuing a responsive technology development program.
- Access to space. One of the points raised in the many thoughtful community inputs is the importance of flexible and implementable options for access to space. More generally, access to space is a related issue that merits periodic reassessment. A document from NASA Science Mission Directorate on the evolution of access to space options at all scales relevant for science missions since the last decadal survey, and the outlook for the foreseeable future, could be a very valuable pre-survey resource.
- Mission size. Significant interest was expressed in missions that are even smaller than the SMEX scale. NASA might consider a workshop on ideas for such missions. This would be primarily a forward-looking workshop, but it could also include a careful look at lessons learned from the University Explorer (UNEX) program.
Given the input received by the committee, and based on the committee’s deliberations and findings, more than sufficient compelling science possibilities for a 2018/19 SMEX Announcement of Opportunity exist. The committee therefore concurs with the midterm assessment’s recommendation to proceed with this SMEX round. As neither this report nor NASA suggest changes to the 2018/19 SMEX Announcement of Opportunity, there is no need for the CAA to comment on the potential impact of any changes to the NWNH-recommended program.