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A pragmatic access to space approach for the ST8 mission

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2 Author(s)
Turner, P.R. ; Jet Propulsion Lab., California Inst. of Technol., Pasadena, CA, USA ; Herrell, L.M.

NASA the new millennium program (NMP) approach to space flight validation of advanced technologies is to alternate between subsystem and system flight validations. Candidates for each NMP project (subsystem or system) are competed through a NASA research announcement process, and proposal selection is determined by NASA headquarters. Space technology 8 (ST8) is the second NMP subsystem project. It includes technology experiments selected from four technology capability areas. The forecast for launch is 2008. The key distinguishing feature between the first subsystem project (ST6) and ST8 is the approach for access to space (ATS). The ST6 Project was initiated in 1999 - a time of great expectations for an expanded launch industry and potential for a great deal of 'ride-sharing' to space. Anticipating an environment rich with partnering possibilities, the ST6 competing teams sought and found a variety of accommodations for ATS (e.g., as payloads on other spacecraft, or as a payload on the shuttle's HitchHiker Program). Lessons learned from ST6 include the loss of partnerships or 'rideshares' in a time of decreasing launch availability, cancellation of a partner's project, and loss of the space shuttle (as of this writing) as a host platform. The ST8 mission was initiated in 2003, after the 'crash' of the launch industry, and the NMP approach for access to space changed. NMP planned to provide a launch vehicle and carrier spacecraft that would accommodate the selection of subsystem technologies. Because of the competitive element of NMP, however, the technologies to be flown would not be known until a year after the start of the competition and that valuable time could be used to prepare for the spacecraft requirements, and align the spacecraft acquisition to coincide with the down-selection of the technology payload. NMP was confronted with a ('chicken-or-the-egg') dilemma: Since the technology payload has not been chosen, how do we scope the NMP carrier req- uirements? If we wait to begin work on the spacecraft requirements until after NASA selects the technology payloads, we could lose a year or more toward enabling future space science missions. This paper tells the story of the evolution of the access to space approach for the ST8 Project, with some insights and comments on the benefits and risks of this approach.

Published in:

Aerospace Conference, 2005 IEEE

Date of Conference:

5-12 March 2005