Shuttle Upgrades Program
The Space Shuttle Program is part of NASA's Human Exploration and Development of Space (HEDS) enterprise, under the authority of the Office of Space Flight. The program manager reports to the director of the lead center for the Space Shuttle Program, the Johnson Space Center (JSC), who reports to the associate administrator for the Office of Space Flight at NASA headquarters, who in turn reports to the NASA administrator.
Potential upgrades to the shuttle are coordinated by the Space Shuttle Program Development Office, which was created in 1997 and reports to the Space Shuttle Program manager. This office is responsible to the program manager for collecting, organizing, and prioritizing all upgrade concepts proposed by NASA organizations and shuttle contractors. The manager of the Space Shuttle Program Development Office chairs the Space Shuttle Upgrades Program Requirements Control Board (SSUPRCB), which has the authority to fund upgrades for which development and production will cost less than $5 million and to review and forward proposals for more expensive candidate upgrades to shuttle program management for disposition. Figure 2-1 shows how the upgrades program fits into the NASA organization.
The budget for the Space Shuttle Program, which is part of the “Human Space Flight” line item in the NASA budget, provides funds for shuttle flights
and ground operations (excluding civil service salaries). The two major components of the shuttle program budget are “Shuttle Operations,” and “Safety and Performance Upgrades” (S&PU). Historically, most space shuttle upgrades have been funded through the S&PU line. In fiscal year (FY) 1998, about $650 million was spent on S&PU, out of a total shuttle budget of $2.9 billion. The vast majority of S&PU funding is dedicated to modifications and improvements to the flight and ground elements of the program, including the expansion of safety and operating margins and the enhancement of space shuttle capabilities, as well as the replacement of obsolescent systems (and systems that are noncompliant with anticipated changes to environmental regulations). Figure 2-2 shows how the S&PU budget compared to the total shuttle budget during four different years since 1985, including the projected budget for FY99.
The funding for upgrades managed by the Space Shuttle Program Development Office comes from Space Shuttle Program reserves, although the funding is considered to be in the S&PU budget for bookkeeping purposes. The program manager has the authority to spend these reserves—approximately $190 million per year in FY98 and FY99—on any problem areas and, since FY97, has dedicated about $100 million per year to the development of new shuttle upgrades.
(This is the only part of the S&PU budget focused on new upgrades; the remainder is allocated primarily to previously approved upgrades and other ongoing activities.) The Space Shuttle Program Development Office uses these funds to study, develop, and implement minor upgrades and to study potential major upgrades. The implementation of larger upgrades would require additional funding and higher level approval within the Administration and Congress.
According to NASA's 1998 strategic plan,
The Space Shuttle program is committed to flying safely, meeting the manifest, improving system supportability and reliability, and reducing cost—in that order of priority. HEDS (Human Exploration and Development of Space Enterprise) is implementing the shuttle upgrade program to improve reliability, performance, and longevity of Space Shuttle operations to meet ISS needs and human exploration goals beyond 2012 (NASA, 1997).
These goals have been further defined by the management of the shuttle program. “Fly safely” includes eliminating failure modes, reducing the number of in-flight anomalies, and decreasing the probability of catastrophic failure. “Meeting the manifest” involves improving the shuttle program's ability to launch on
time and recover rapidly from slips in the launch schedule. “Improving mission supportability” includes replacing obsolete hardware, complying with new environmental regulations, increasing the flight rate capability, and reducing cycle times for refurbishment. “Reducing cost” includes any and all measures adopted by the program to improve efficiency or otherwise reduce life-cycle costs. This goal has been rephrased within the shuttle program to “improving the system” to capture the idea that efficiencies can be motivated in ways other than traditional top-down budget cuts. The fifth and final goal is to “support other human space flight programs” (Holloway, 1998).
According to NASA's FY99 budget request, space shuttle upgrades will be developed and implemented in “a phased manner supporting one or more of the program goals.” The phasing strategy “will be coordinated with the reusable launch vehicle (RLV) project and other development projects to capture common technology developments” (NASA, 1998a). Proposed upgrades are categorized as either Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, or Phase IV, depending on when they were approved, their anticipated costs, and their effects on the space shuttle design. In addition to the phased upgrades, the Space Flight Operations Contract (SFOC) between NASA and the USA corporation contains limited incentives for USA corporation to initiate and implement (with NASA's approval) cost-savings upgrades.
Phase I upgrades include ongoing modifications initiated in the early 1990s to improve shuttle safety (e.g., modifications to the main engine), as well as upgrades (such as the super lightweight tank) to increase the shuttle's ability to support the ISS. Funding for Phase I upgrades accounts for most of the S&PU budget in FY98 and FY99. Since these upgrades have already been approved, developed, and in many cases completed, they are outside the scope of this report.
Phase II upgrades are defined as high value, low impact, incremental improvements, primarily to combat obsolescence. Phase II upgrades typically cost $10 to $50 million each, including development and production. Proposed Phase II upgrades are coordinated by the Space Shuttle Program Development Office and prioritized by their projected cost and potential to meet program goals. The office funds the study and implementation of Phase II upgrades out of its annual budget of approximately $100 million. At the time of this review, more than 20 Phase II upgrades had been approved for implementation, with nearly as many in the study/definition stage.
Phase III and IV upgrades are proposed major modifications ($100 million to billions of dollars) to the shuttle system designed to increase the shuttle's capabilities. The distinction between Phase III and Phase IV upgrades is that Phase III upgrades would not change the fundamental configuration of the shuttle
(the “mold line”), while Phase IV upgrades would. Preliminary studies on Phase III and IV upgrades are also funded out of the Space Shuttle Program Development Office's $100 million budget. Implementing these upgrades, however, would require additional funding.
Life Cycle of an Upgrade
Shuttle upgrade concepts generally originate in the various project elements of the shuttle organization and percolate up through the management chain. Some of the ideas are long-standing concepts, while others are relatively new. Many of the safety-related upgrades, for example, arise from contractor sustaining engineering based on ongoing evaluations of flight and test data, anomalies, failures, and mishaps. Others result from R&D in government laboratories or engineering work conducted by government and support contractors at NASA centers. Many obsolescence and supportability upgrades originate from USA corporation logistics activities.
The Space Shuttle Program Development Office coordinates the flow of all new upgrade concepts through the study, analysis, and approval system. The office in charge of each project element—the orbiter, SSME, external tank, solid rocket booster, solid rocket motor, launch and landing operations, and mission and flight crew operations—as well as USA corporation, send lists of top candidate upgrades to the Space Shuttle Program Development Office, which then prioritizes them. Prioritization is necessary because there are many more upgrade candidates than dollars to fund them.
Many factors influence the prioritization process. One is the anticipated impact of the upgrade on program goals (fly safely, meet the manifest, improve supportability, reduce cost/improve the system, and support other human space-flight programs). Another is the projected cost of developing and implementing the upgrade, including cost savings that would result from the change. Advice from within the agency, including the HEDS enterprise, the Safety and Mission Assurance Office, and the NASA Advisory Council, as well as from outside sources, such as Congress, the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and the National Research Council, may also be considered.
Several tools are being developed to support the upgrade prioritization process. The program development office uses the quantitative risk assessment system (QRAS), a probabilistic tool being developed to compute the probability and consequences of failure of many elements of the space shuttle system, as an aid in the prioritization of safety-related changes. The agency is also beginning to use quantitative approaches more often to help prioritize nonsafety-related upgrades. However, these quantitative tools are only one component of the decision process, which includes many other technical and programmatic considerations.
An upgrade must be approved by the SSUPRCB (Space Shuttle Upgrades Program Requirements Control Board) before it can be implemented. The SSUPRCB is chaired by the manager of the Space Shuttle Program Development Office, and the members represent all shuttle project elements, USA corporation, and systems integration, flight crew operations, logistics operations, safety and mission assurance, and other support organizations. Box 2-1 is a list of the organizations represented on the SSUPRCB.
The SSUPRCB has the authority to approve upgrades for which development and production are projected to cost $5 million or less. Upgrades that are
BOX 2-1 Members of the Space Shuttle Upgrades Program Requirements Control Board
Manager, Space Shuttle Program Development (or designee)
Representative of Space Shuttle Management Integration
Representative of Space Shuttle Systems Integration, Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Representative of Space Shuttle Customer and Flight Integration, JSC
Representative of Space Shuttle Vehicle Engineering, JSC
Representative of Space Shuttle Integration, Kennedy Space Center (KSC)
Representative of Space Shuttle Business Management, JSC
Representative of Space Operations Management Organization, JSC
Representative of Engineering, JSC
Representative of Flight Crew Operations, JSC
Representative of Mission Operations, JSC
Representative of Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance, JSC
Representative of Space and Life Sciences, JSC
Representative of Shuttle Processing, KSC
Representative of Payload Processing, KSC
Representative of Logistics Operations, KSC
Representative of Advanced Development and Shuttle Upgrades, KSC
Representative of External Tank Project, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC)
Representative of Space Shuttle Main Engine Project, MSFC
Representative of Solid Rocket Booster Project, MSFC
Representative of Reusable Solid Rocket Motor Project, MSFC
Representative of Space Flight Operations, USA corporation
SOURCE: NASA, 1988b.
expected to cost more than $5 million, affect the shuttle schedule, increase risk, or cause problems for the ISS are reviewed by the SSUPRCB and forwarded to the Space Shuttle Program Requirements Control Board, which has the authority to resolve conflicts involving shuttle schedule or risk and to approve upgrades of up to $50 million. The more expensive upgrades (Phase III and IV, generally) will require approval at higher levels of the agency, the Administration, and Congress.
Once a Phase II upgrade is approved, the SSUPRCB assumes program oversight of the performance of the implementing organization. When the design and production phases have been completed, most upgrades are implemented by support or prime contractors during the periodic down periods for orbiter maintenance (when each orbiter is taken out of service for detailed structural inspections and thorough testing before being returned to operational status.) NASA civil servants participate in engineering, system safety, and project management activities.
Decisions on implementing Phase III or Phase IV upgrades will probably have to await the anticipated policy decision on shuttle replacement. NASA is currently gathering data in support of this decision through an industry-led study process, the Space Transportation Architecture Study, which was initiated in June 1998 to
determine: (i) if the Space Shuttle system should be replaced, (ii) if so, when the replacement should take place and how the transition should be implemented and (iii) if not, what is the upgrade strategy to continue safe and affordable flight of the space shuttle beyond 2010 (NASA, 1998c).
The study will be the basis for NASA's FY01 budget and, presumably, for deciding the space shuttle's role in NASA's future space transportation plans. (Final decisions on NASA's space transportation plans, of course, will be made by the Administration and Congress.)
Holloway, T. 1998. Space Shuttle Program Goals and Objectives. Briefing to the Committee on Space Shuttle Upgrades, Houston, Texas, July 7, 1998.
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration). 1997. NASA 1988 Strategic Plan. NASA Policy Directive (NPD)-1000.1. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA. 1998a. NASA FY1999 Budget Request. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA. 1998b. National Space Transportation System (NSTS) 07700, Volume IV, Book 1, Revision K. May 1998. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
NASA. 1998c. Space Transportation Architecture Studies Performance Work Statement . RFW-00166-JFK. June 15, 1998. Washington, D.C.: National Aeronautics and Space Administration.