|NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is widely admired for astonishing accomplishments since its formation in 1958. Looking ahead over a comparable period of time, what can the nation and the world expect of NASA? What will be the agency's goals and objectives, and what will be the strategy for achieving them? More fundamentally, how will the goals, objectives, and strategy be established and by whom? How will they be modified to reflect changes in science, technology, national priorities, and available resources?
In late 2011, the United States Congress directed the NASA Office of Inspector General to commission a "comprehensive independent assessment of NASA's strategic direction and agency management." Subsequently, NASA requested that the National Research Council (NRC) conduct this independent assessment. In the spring of 2012, the NRC Committee on NASA's Strategic Direction was formed and began work on its task. The committee determined that, only with a national consensus on the agency's future strategic direction—along the lines described in the full NRC report—can NASA continue to deliver the wonder, the knowledge, the national security and economic benefits, and the technology that have been typified by its earlier history. NASA's Strategic Direction and the Need for a National Consensus summarizes the findings and recommendations of the committee.
|Big DataA Workshop Report
In 2012, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) approached the National Research Council's TIGER standing committee and asked it to develop a list of workshop topics to explore the impact of emerging science and technology. From the list of topics given to DIA, three were chosen to be developed by the Committee for Science and Technology Challenges to U.S. National Security Interests. The first in a series of three workshops was held on April 23-24, 2012. This report summarizes that first workshop which explored the phenomenon known as big data.
The objective for the first workshop is given in the statement of task, which explains that that workshop will review emerging capabilities in large computational data to include speed, data fusion, use, and commodification of data used in decision making. The workshop will also review the subsequent increase in vulnerabilities over the capabilities gained and the significance to national security. The committee devised an agenda that helped the committee, sponsors, and workshop attendees probe issues of national security related to so-called big data, as well as gain understanding of potential related vulnerabilities. The workshop was used to gather data that is described in this report, which presents views expressed by individual workshop participants.
Big Data: A Workshop Report is the first in a series of three workshops, held in early 2012 to further the ongoing engagement among the National Research Council's (NRC's) Technology Insight-Gauge, Evaluate, and Review (TIGER) Standing Committee, the scientific and technical intelligence (S&TI) community, and the consumers of S&TI products.
|Summary of a Workshop on the Future of Antennas
The Workshop on the Future of Antennas was the second of three workshops conducted by the National Research Council's Committee for Science and Technology Challenges to U.S. National Security Interests. The objectives of the workshop were to review trends in advanced antenna research and design, review trends in commercials and military use of advanced antennas that enable improved communication, data transfer, soldier health monitoring, and other overt and covert methods of standoff data collection.
The first day's sessions, consisting of five presentations and discussions on antennas and wireless communications and control, were open to committee members, staff, guests, and members of the public. The second day was a data-gathering session addressing vulnerabilities, indicators, and observables; presentations and discussions during this session included classified material and were not open to the public.
The committee's role was limited to planning and convening the workshop. This report is organized by topic in the order of presentation and discussion at the workshop. For Day 1 the topics were Future of Antennas, Commercial State of the Art of Wireless Communications and Control, Military State of the Art of Wireless Communications and Control, and Future Trends in Antenna Design and Wireless Communications and Control. For Day 2 the topics were Vulnerabilities of Ubiquitous Antennas, and Indicators and Observables, followed by a wrap-up discussion. Summary of a Workshop on the Future of Antennas describes what happened at the workshop.
|Reusable Booster SystemReview and Assessment
On June 15, 2011, the Air Force Space Command established a new vision, mission, and set of goals to ensure continued U.S. dominance in space and cyberspace mission areas. Subsequently, and in coordination with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Space and Missile Systems Center, and the 14th and 24th Air Forces, the Air Force Space Command identified four long-term science and technology (S&T) challenges critical to meeting these goals. One of these challenges is to provide full-spectrum launch capability at dramatically lower cost, and a reusable booster system (RBS) has been proposed as an approach to meet this challenge.
The Air Force Space Command asked the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council to conduct an independent review and assessment of the RBS concept prior to considering a continuation of RBS-related activities within the Air Force Research Laboratory portfolio and before initiating a more extensive RBS development program. The committee for the Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment was formed in response to that request and charged with reviewing and assessing the criteria and assumptions used in the current RBS plans, the cost model methodologies used to fame [frame?] the RBS business case, and the technical maturity and development plans of key elements critical to RBS implementation.
The committee consisted of experts not connected with current RBS activities who have significant expertise in launch vehicle design and operation, research and technology development and implementation, space system operations, and cost analysis. The committee solicited and received input on the Air Force launch requirements, the baseline RBS concept, cost models and assessment, and technology readiness. The committee also received input from industry associated with RBS concept, industry independent of the RBS concept, and propulsion system providers which is summarized in Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment.
|Continuing Kepler's QuestAssessing Air Force Space Command's Astrodynamics Standards
In February 2009, the commercial communications satellite Iridium 33 collided with the Russian military communications satellite Cosmos 2251. The collision, which was not the first recorded between two satellites in orbit--but the most recent and alarming--produced thousands of pieces of debris, only a small percentage of which could be tracked by sensors located around the world. In early 2007, China tested a kinetic anti-satellite weapon against one of its own satellites, which also generated substantial amounts of space debris. These collisions highlighted the importance of maintaining accurate knowledge, and the associated uncertainty, of the orbit of each object in space. These data are needed to predict close approaches of space objects and to compute the probability of collision so that owners/operators can decide whether or not to make a collision avoidance maneuver by a spacecraft with such capability. The space object catalog currently contains more than 20,000 objects, and when the planned space fence radar becomes operational this number is expected to exceed 100,000.
A key task is to determine if objects might come closer to each other, an event known as "conjunction," and the probability that they might collide. The U.S. Air Force is the primary U.S. government organization tasked with maintaining the space object catalog and data on all space objects. This is a complicated task, involving collecting data from a multitude of different sensors-many of which were not specifically designed to track orbiting objects-and fusing the tracking data along with other data, such as data from atmospheric models, to provide predictions of where objects will be in the future.
The Committee for the Assessment of the U.S. Air Force's Astrodynamic Standards collected data and heard from numerous people involved in developing and maintaining the current astrodynamics standards for the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), as well as representatives of the user community, such as NASA and commercial satellite owners and operators. Preventing collisions of space objects, regardless of their ownership, is in the national security interested of the United States. Continuing Kepler's Quest makes recommendations to the AFSPC in order for it to create and expand research programs, design and develop hardware and software, as well as determine which organizations to work with to achieve its goals.
|Solar and Space PhysicsA Science for a Technological Society
From the interior of the Sun, to the upper atmosphere and near-space environment of Earth, and outward to a region far beyond Pluto where the Sun's influence wanes, advances during the past decade in space physics and solar physics--the disciplines NASA refers to as heliophysics--have yielded spectacular insights into the phenomena that affect our home in space.
Solar and Space Physics, from the National Research Council's (NRC's) Committee for a Decadal Strategy in Solar and Space Physics, is the second NRC decadal survey in heliophysics. Building on the research accomplishments realized during the past decade, the report presents a program of basic and applied research for the period 2013-2022 that will improve scientific understanding of the mechanisms that drive the Sun's activity and the fundamental physical processes underlying near-Earth plasma dynamics, determine the physical interactions of Earth's atmospheric layers in the context of the connected Sun-Earth system, and enhance greatly the capability to provide realistic and specific forecasts of Earth's space environment that will better serve the needs of society.
Although the recommended program is directed primarily at NASA and the National Science Foundation for action, the report also recommends actions by other federal agencies, especially the parts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration charged with the day-to-day (operational) forecast of space weather. In addition to the recommendations included in this summary, related recommendations are presented in this report.
|Recapturing NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities
In the five decades since NASA was created, the agency has sustained its legacy from the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) in playing a major role in U.S. aeronautics research and has contributed substantially to United States preeminence in civil and military aviation. This preeminence has contributed significantly to the overall economy and balance of trade of the United States through the sales of aircraft throughout the world. NASA's contributions have included advanced flight control systems, de-icing devices, thrust-vectoring systems, wing fuselage drag reduction configurations, aircraft noise reduction, advanced transonic airfoil and winglet designs, and flight systems. Each of these contributions was successfully demonstrated through NASA flight research programs. Equally important, the aircraft industry would not have adopted these and similar advances without NASA flight demonstration on full-scale aircraft flying in an environment identical to that which the aircraft are to operate-in other words, flight research.
Flight research is a tool, not a conclusion. It often informs simulation and modeling and wind tunnel testing. Aeronautics research does not follow a linear path from simulation to wind tunnels to flying an aircraft. The loss of flight research capabilities at NASA has therefore hindered the agency's ability to make progress throughout its aeronautics program by removing a primary tool for research.
Recapturing NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities discusses the motivation for NASA to pursue flight research, addressing the aspects of the committee's task such as identifying the challenges where research program success can be achieved most effectively through flight research. The report contains three case studies chosen to illustrate the state of NASA ARMD. These include the ERA program and the Fundamental Research Program's hypersonics and supersonics projects. Following these case studies, the report describes issues with the NASA ARMD organization and management and offers solutions. In addition, the chapter discusses current impediments to progress, including demonstrating relevancy to stakeholders, leadership, and the lack of focus relative to available resources.
Recapturing NASA's Aeronautics Flight Research Capabilities concludes that the type and sophistication of flight research currently being conducted by NASA today is relatively low and that the agency's overall progress in aeronautics is severely constrained by its inability to actually advance its research projects to the flight research stage, a step that is vital to bridging the confidence gap. NASA has spent much effort protecting existing research projects conducted at low levels, but it has not been able to pursue most of these projects to the point where they actually produce anything useful. Without the ability to actually take flight, NASA's aeronautics research cannot progress, cannot make new discoveries, and cannot contribute to U.S. aerospace preeminence.
|NASA Space Technology Roadmaps and PrioritiesRestoring NASA's Technological Edge and Paving the Way for a New Era in Space
NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT) has begun to rebuild the advanced space technology program in the agency with plans laid out in 14 draft technology roadmaps. It has been years since NASA has had a vigorous, broad-based program in advanced space technology development and its technology base has been largely depleted. However, success in executing future NASA space missions will depend on advanced technology developments that should already be underway. Reaching out to involve the external technical community, the National Research Council (NRC) considered the 14 draft technology roadmaps prepared by OCT and ranked the top technical challenges and highest priority technologies that NASA should emphasize in the next 5 years. This report provides specific guidance and recommendations on how the effectiveness of the technology development program managed by OCT can be enhanced in the face of scarce resources.