Lessons Learned in the Implementation
of NASA’s Earth venture Class
Committee on the Review of Lessons-Learned in the
Implementation of NASA’s Earth Venture Class
Space Studies Board
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
A Consensus Study Report of
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This study is based on work supported by Contract NNH17CB02B with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any agency or organization that provided support for the project.
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Digital Object Identifier: https://doi.org/10.17226/26499
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Suggested citation: National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2022. Lessons Learned in the Implementation of NASA’s Earth Venture Class. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/26499.
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COMMITTEE ON THE REVIEW OF LESSONS-LEARNED IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF NASA’S EARTH VENTURE CLASS
CHRISTIAN D. KUMMEROW, Colorado State University, Co-Chair
MAHTA MOGHADDAM, NAE,1 University of Southern California, Co-Chair
MARK R. ABBOTT, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (retired)
OTIS B. BROWN, JR., North Carolina State University
IVONA CETINIĆ, Morgan State University
CARLOS E. DEL CASTILLO, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
HELEN A. FRICKER,2 Scripps Institution of Oceanography
KATHLEEN O. GREEN, Kass Green & Associates
DENNIS L. HARTMANN, NAS,3 University of Washington
GEORGE J. KOMAR, NASA (retired)
MICHAEL J. PRATHER, University of California, Irvine
JOHN R. SCHERRER, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory
BYRON D. TAPLEY, NAE, The University of Texas at Austin
CHRISTOPHER S. VELDEN, University of Wisconsin–Madison
DUANE E. WALISER, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
ARTHUR CHARO, Senior Program Officer, Study Director
GAYBRIELLE HOLBERT, Program Assistant, Space Studies Board
COLLEEN N. HARTMAN, Director, Space Studies Board
1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
2 Resigned from the committee on June 25, 2021, and did not participate in the committee’s deliberations or the writing of its report.
3 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
SPACE STUDIES BOARD
MARGARET G. KIVELSON, NAS,1 University of California, Los Angeles, Chair
JAMES H. CROCKER, NAE,2 Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company (retired), Vice Chair
GREGORY P. ASNER, NAS, Carnegie Institution for Science
ADAM BURROWS, NAS, Princeton University
DANIELA CALZETTI, NAS, University of Massachusetts Amherst
JEFF DOZIER, University of California, Santa Barbara
MELINDA DARBY DYAR, Mount Holyoke College
ANTONIO L. ELIAS, NAE, Orbital ATK, Inc. (retired)
VICTORIA E. HAMILTON, Southwest Research Institute
DENNIS P. LETTENMAIER, NAE, University of California, Los Angeles
ROSALY M. LOPES, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
STEPHEN J. MACKWELL, American Institute of Physics
DAVID J. McCOMAS, Princeton University
LARRY J. PAXTON, Johns Hopkins University
ELIOT QUATAERT, University of California, Berkeley
MARK P. SAUNDERS, Independent Consultant
J. MMARSHALL SHEPHERD, NAS/NAE, University of Georgia
BARBARA SHERWOOD LOLLAR, NAS/NAE, University of Toronto
HOWARD J. SINGER, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
HARLAN E. SPENCE, University of New Hampshire
ERIKA B. WAGNER, Blue Origin, LLC
PAUL D. WOOSTER, Space Exploration Technologies
EDWARD L. WRIGHT, NAS, University of California, Los Angeles
COLLEEN N. HARTMAN, Director
ALAN ANGLEMAN, Associate Director
ANDREA REBHOLZ, Program Coordinator
TANJA PILZAK, Manager, Program Operations
CELESTE A. NAYLOR, Information Management Associate
MARGARET KNEMEYER, Senior Financial Business Partner
ALEXIS BHADHA, Senior Financial Assistant
1 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
2 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
The NASA Science Mission Directorate/Earth Science Division’s (SMD/ESD’s) Earth Venture (EV) is a program element within the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) program. Established by NASA in response to recommendations contained in the 2007 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine decadal survey report Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond,1 the EV class of missions were created to, “conduct low-cost Earth science research and application missions to demonstrate innovative ideas and higher-risk technologies and provide training for future leaders of space-based observations for Earth science applications.”2
EV missions currently consist of principal investigator (PI)-led suborbital and orbital missions, instruments developed for spaceflight missions of opportunity, and CubeSats. All EV-class missions are cost- and schedule-constrained and openly competed. Adherence to cost caps and schedule constraints is critical to the success of the EV program; indeed, shortly after the initiation of the EV program, the director of NASA’s ESD stated that strict adherence to these constraints were the only way to ensure availability for funding for regular (relatively frequent) solicitations and the only way to ensure programmatic flexibility and responsiveness.3 EV missions are undertaken to complement existing and planned elements of NASA’s Earth Science flight program. Since their inception, it has been NASA policy that no single EV-class selection be an essential element of the ESD flight program.4
1 National Research Council, 2007, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond, Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, https://doi.org/10.17226/11820.
3 See M.H. Freilich, 2009, “Earth Science Division Strategic Issues,” presentation to the National Academies’ Committee on Earth Studies (since renamed the Committee on Earth Science and Applications from Space), October 19, 2009. The word “only” appears in boldface type in Dr. Freilich’s presentation.
4 Of note, the most recent EV announcements of opportunity (AOs) state explicitly that alignment with decadal survey priorities will be a consideration for proposal selection. For example, the most recent AO for Earth Venture-Mission states, “For this solicitation, NASA will prioritize consideration of proposals that address the questions laid out in the 2017 Decadal Survey and will use the classification of the question being addressed as a guide for consideration.” See NASA, 2020, “Announcement of Opportunity, Draft Earth Venture Mission – 3, Earth System Science Pathfinder Program,” NNH20ZDA006J, April 10, 2020, https://nspires.nasaprs.com.
In 2020, at the request of NASA, the National Academies convened an ad hoc study committee to examine the Earth Venture Instrument (EV-I) and Earth Venture Mission (EV-M) components of EVs and report on lessons learned in the more than 10 years since the first EV selection. NASA’s request excluded the EV-Suborbital (EV-S) component, which is expected to undergo a separate review in a forthcoming National Academies study. It also excludes the only recently initiated EV-Continuity (EV-C) component. As noted in the statement of task (see Appendix A), there was particular interest in derivation of lessons learned that could be applied to optimize future EV selections. The implementation of several EV missions has proved difficult, with notable violations of core principles that characterize EVs—selected missions are to be implemented in strict accord with the cost and schedule established at the time of selections. The scope of the study does not include commenting on whether EV mission costs caps are appropriate, though discussions of the trade space among factors including risk, mission cadence, and mission cost are in scope.
All meetings of the Committee on the Review of Lessons-Learned in the Implementation of NASA’s Earth Venture Class were held virtually to comply with emergency state and federal bans—initiated as part of a response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic—on large meetings or gatherings. Some 25 teleconferences were held over the course of the study, each typically lasting 1 to 1.5 hours.
As part of its information gathering, the committee contacted PIs and key members of their project management teams for all selected EV missions except INCUS (EVM-3).5 Due to confidentiality rules, NASA was unable to provide the committee with the names of PIs from proposal teams that were not selected in response to EV-I or EV-M solicitations. However, some of the selected PIs that were interviewed volunteered that they had proposed unsuccessfully to previous solicitations, and they also volunteered to discuss these experiences.
The committee was also informed by its members, many of whom had experience with NASA Earth science flight programs, and from interviews and briefings with current and retired NASA officials associated with the management of EV. A partial list includes the following: Rosemary Baize, NASA Langley Research Center; Sandra Cauffman, NASA Headquarters (HQ); David Considine, NASA HQ; Karen St. Germain, NASA HQ; Ken Jucks, NASA HQ; Ramesh Kakar, NASA, retired; Jack Kaye, NASA HQ; Hank Margolis, NASA HQ; Adalberto Sierra and Bradley Smith, NASA Launch Services Program; Greg Stover, NASA Langley Research Center; Tom Wagner, NASA HQ; and Charles Webb, NASA HQ. For insight into EV technical, management, and cost review, the committee interviewed, among others, Jim Bell, NASA Ames Research Center, and Lindsey Hayes, University of California, Berkeley. Members of the committee also had discussions with Albert Sierra, NASA Kennedy Space Center, and Bradley Smith, NASA HQ, regarding EV-class launch options and NASA’s Launch Services Program.
5 NASA’s selection of INCUS for EVM-3 occurred after the committee had completed its initial draft report; INCUS project team members were not interviewed.
Acknowledgment of Reviewers
This Consensus Study Report was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will assist the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in making each published report as sound as possible and to ensure that it meets the institutional standards for quality, 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 thank the following individuals for their review of this report:
Although the reviewers listed above have provided many constructive comments and suggestions, they were not asked to endorse the conclusions or recommendations of this report nor did they see the final draft before its release. The review of this report was overseen by Douglas W. Burbank, NAS, University of California, Santa Barbara, and Christopher O. Justice, University of Maryland, College Park. They were responsible for making certain that an independent examination of this report was carried out in accordance with the standards of the National Academies and that all review comments were carefully considered. Responsibility for the final content of the report rests entirely with the authoring committee and the National Academies.
1 Member, National Academy of Engineering.
2 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
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