To successfully implement spaceflight programs and projects, NASA focuses on mission success across a challenging portfolio of high-risk and complex endeavors, many of which are executed over long periods of time. NASA has established a comprehensive set of directives (NASA Policy Directives [NPD]s, NASA Procedural Requirements [NPRs], etc.) that sets forth how these programs and projects are to be implemented. The highest level document, NPD 1000.0, NASA Governance and Strategic Management Handbook, sets forth the governance framework through which the agency manages its missions and executes its responsibilities. This governance model, which balances different perspectives from different elements of the organization, is fundamental to NASA’s system of checks and balances. The cornerstone of this organizational structure is the separation of programmatic and institutional authorities.
Programmatic authority resides within the mission directorates and their respective programs and projects. Institutional authority encompasses all organizations and authorities not in programmatic authority. This includes the Mission Support Directorate and Mission Support Offices at Headquarters and associated organizations at the field centers; other mission support organizations; center directors; and the technical authorities, who are individuals with specifically delegated authority in Engineering, Safety and Mission Assurance, and Health and Medical. The Engineering, Safety and Mission Assurance, and Health and Medical organizations are a unique segment of the institutional authority. They support programs and projects in two ways:
- They provide technical personnel and support and oversee the technical work of personnel who provide the technical expertise to accomplish the program or project mission.
- They provide Technical Authorities, who independently oversee programs and projects. These individuals have a formally delegated technical authority role traceable to the Administrator and are funded independent of programs and projects.1
NPR 7120.5, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements, establishes the requirements by which NASA formulates and implements spaceflight programs and projects, consistent with the governance model described above, and it establishes a standard of uniformity for the process. It defines program and project life cycles; management oversight and approval; approving and maintaining program and project plans,
1 Material in this appendix is derived from NASA documents NPD 1000.0, NPR 7120.5, and NPR 7123.1.
baselines, and commitments; roles and responsibilities; technical authority; and the process for handling dissenting opinions.
NPR 7123.1, NASA Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements, establishes the requirements on the implementing organization for performing systems engineering.
Systems engineering at NASA requires the application of a systematic, disciplined engineering approach that is quantifiable, recursive, iterative, and repeatable for the development, operation, maintenance, and disposal of systems integrated into a whole throughout the life cycle of a project or program. The emphasis of systems engineering is on safely achieving stakeholder functional, physical, and operational performance requirements in the intended use environments over the system’s planned life within cost and schedule constraints. This document complements the administration, management, and review of all programs and projects, as specified in NPR 7120.5.2
Two processes defined in these NPRs are particularly important to understand the committee’s assessment of NASA’s planetary protection policy development: (1) requirement development and flow down and (2) handling dissenting opinions.
- There are many different types of requirements, starting at the headquarters level, where stakeholder expectations are captured flowing down both the programmatic and institutional (including technical authority) chains into the project and down through the project’s work breakdown structure. However regardless of the source, all requirements are expected to:
- Be individually clear, correct, and feasible,
- Not be stated as how to satisfy the requirement,
- Be implementable,
- Have only one interpretation of meaning,
- Have one actor-verb-object requirement, and
- Be able to be validated at the level of the system structure at which they are stated.
Also when requirements are presented in pairs or as a set, they are required to have:
- Have no redundancy,
- Be consistent with terms used,
- Not conflict with one another, and
- Form a set of “design-to” requirements.
- “To support mission success, NASA teams need to have full and open discussions, with all facts made available to support understanding and objective assessment of issues to make the best possible decisions. Diverse views are to be fostered and respected in an environment of integrity and trust with no suppression or retribution. To support these goals, NASA has established a uniform, recognized, and accepted process for resolving serious dissent and has formalized it in policy. This is the dissenting opinion process, which further empowers team members to provide their best input to decision makers on important issues and clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of both sides when there is a dissent. A dissenting opinion expresses a view that a decision or action, in the dissenter’s judgment, needs to be changed for the good of NASA and requests a review by higher-level management. In this context, ‘for the good of NASA’ is to be read broadly to cover NASA, mission success, safety, the individual project, and the program.”3
2 Material in this appendix is derived from NASA documents NPD 1000.0, NPR 7120.5, and NPR 7123.1.
3 Material in this appendix is derived from NASA documents NPD 1000.0, NPR 7120.5, and NPR 7123.1.