The planning process of the technology program seeks to align the technology-investment portfolio with NASA science needs. Investment planning activities are supported by studies that help establish the range of technical-capability requirements the technology program must address, and help identify the pros and cons of available technology implementation options. More specifically, the technology program conducts system studies as part of its planning process to:
- Identify and refine candidate-observing scenarios, and translate observing-scenario options into detailed technology performance requirements;
- Compare the relative merits of alternative technology approaches;
- Identify technical-capability gaps and crucial-need areas; and,
- Prioritize needs, formulate measurement-unique technology roadmaps and development plans, and focus technology solicitations for particular need areas.
Studies are also used to explore new component, system, and architectural concepts with a far-term horizon of 15 to ~ 25 years that are based on futuristic science and applications scenarios. These new concepts provide the basis for planning the long-term element of the technology portfolio.
Types of Studies
Study products address the needs of specific customers and may be categorized in three broad areas as follows:
- Studies related to NASA Architecture Development;
- Studies related to Science and Applications Programs Development; and,
- Studies related to Technology Program Development.
The goal of architecture studies is to define optimal system-of-systems approaches that guide the design of a comprehensive end-to-end approach. Architecture studies answer questions related to agency- or directorate-level needs affecting NASA Science and Applications programs. Study products identify the type and nature of systems (e.g. missions) and supporting elements (e.g. infrastructure) and how these may be effectively integrated to meet Earth science goals.
Science and Applications Studies
These studies answer questions related to needs unique to the individual science and applications programs. Program-level studies define new types of measurements (i.e. instrumentation), activities (i.e. missions), and the level of programmatic and technical capabilities needed to support them.
Technology studies answer questions related to development of the technology portfolio. These studies identify the types of technologies that will become available (i.e. the technology portfolio) and help characterize their programmatic and technical specifications.
Selection of Study Topics
Studies serve the purpose of providing NASA Program Managers with decision-making information that cannot be obtained by other means. Commissioning of studies is therefore a discretionary activity driven by science needs. Study products address the needs of individual programs, and consequently, it is the program managers who define the goals and scope of studies and make the final selection for funding. Selection of study topics is made in consideration of program priorities, availability of funds, and availability of teams qualified to perform the analysis work.
Studies are assigned to teams with the requisite expertise and experience, and are usually conducted under the guidance of a “principal investigator” who is responsible for the work. Study teams are typically from a NASA center or JPL, but for certain cases they may be from outside organizations including Federally Funded Research Development Centers, private industry, or academia.
The technology program maintains close linkage with the science community and stakeholders. Consequently, ideas for science related studies are encouraged and welcomed. These ideas, once vetted by the appropriate program manager(s), can become the topic of ESTO-funded studies. Although submission of study ideas is openly encouraged, ESTO does not solicit —or encourage submission of— study proposals. Individuals or groups interested in performing study work are advised to work directly with the Program Managers responsible for science or applications activities related to the study topic(s) of interest.