2007/11/14

Astrophysics 2020: Morse's "... Living Within Our Means" talk

Can we use a officer for subprime loan? [joke]

Science Mission Directorate Guiding Principles
  • To advance the priorities for all four decadal surveys
  • To get more from our budget through better management and investements in R&A.
    • Need to control cost of missions
    • Kepler will be cost capped
  • To help the Vision for Space Exploration succed (e.g. fostering a lunar science community).
    • The vision is the main mandate
Mission Timescale Conundrum
  • Advocacy challenge: staying focused for t>20 years
  • Difficult to know where to put money
Cost Estimation Conundrum
  • All advocated have strong biases
  • Large missions may leverage previous technologies
  • Agency has a 70% confidence level
    • Cost control on missions to control the queue
  • Complexities of Launch Vehicle industry
  • New missions may leverage previous technologies, but are essential highly costumized one-offs
Total NASA budget (see webcast for slide).
Budget grows at 3% (NASA), Astrophysics grows at 1% and then at 2% starting in 2011. Science will be the driver. [I had a hard time seeing how from the slides...]

Astrophysics as a fraction of NASA Budget
Increasing curve over time. In FY09 the whole budget (Astro) goes down to 1.3, to about 8%, a record level. This is what we need to plan as a goal, we cannot have an ever increasing cost, we are limited to 8%.
In FY08 there is a decrease in funding, reflecting that JWST is at peak funding.

Great Observatory Peak Funding.
One needs > 10 years to develop the mission, with a funding peak.
Great Observatories are spaced in time by ~10 years or so

SMD Launches (Phase A-D, $M)
In FY09 we are spending almost as much as we will spend in FY13 when JWST is launched. Most of the costs are PEOPLE [expected]

Portfolio Diversity
  • A variety of mission sizes is required to satisfy conflicting community desires: training, frequent launches, cutting edge science, facility class observatories
  • Astrophysics, a largely photon-starved endeavor
Community Recommendation
  • Use funds to re-established a balance between small, medium and large missions (NRC 2007, AAAC 2007)
Looking forward
  • Assumptions
    • $1.3 B in Astrophysics, flat
    • Currently planned facilities will be finished and operated
    • Complete missions, invest in research
    • Missions funding profile looks almost like in the past
  • On average, the SMD spends $800 in R&D, JWST, .... only few Mil left for small programs
    • We need Kepler class missions ($600-$700M): JDEM, exoplanets, LISA, additional probes
    • What is the next flagship? Decadal survey says ConX
Strategic Mission Planning
  • Exploration Observatories
  • Could follow the example of Great Obseervatories in mission planning and timescales
    • Science Rationale: killer apps + broad scientifics impact
    • Should signnificantly improve upon perormance on JWST/HST, etc...
    • Sustainable Technologies
    • Identify the sequence of investments
      • Previous Decadal Survey did this well, but the mission costs were so poorly estimates that resources or tehcnologies developments hasve become highly constrained
Timing Intervals
  • Historically, Great Observatories are done in a one-at-a-time mode given other division contraints
  • With time, the photon limited nature of astrophysics, will mean that great observatories get ahrder to make, meaning longer development times (assuming similar funding for the division)
  • We can afford 1 to 1.5 great observatories per decade along with ~2-4 medium and ~3-5 smaller missions


Q. How do we constrain cost overrun?
A. Cost overruns are a factor of Pi [WOW!]
The > $1B costs do include the Pi factor...
JDEM will be a medium class mission, and we know what the cost cap will have to be.
What we can afford is 1.3M and 80 megapixels.... Kepler is just like that.

Q. Technologies and maturity, do you understand cost overruns
A. Not ready to comment, we are looking at it. JWST technology development is part of the mission's cost. PI mission technologies are harder to develop under the cost of the mission.
We'd like to enable technologies for smaller missions, but it's a non trivial process.

Q. (Mountain) Does the 70% confidence mean you are committing to more contingency?
A. How do you manage contingency is hard. Anything not prioritize is gone. Contingencies are held by the project, BUT we need to be able to tap onto this funds.
The Sr. Review will need to look at a technology tradeoff

Q. Costing, is it really all done on full cost accounting?
A. No, the spike it not due to full cost accounting, but just to the fact that we are not good at costing our missions!
We need to circle the wagon and point the guns inward.