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The Cosmos on a Shoestring. Small Spacecraft for Space and Earth Science

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In the wake of Federal budget reductions, both the civil and military space programs have turned to small spacecraft to meet mission requirements at lower costs. A RAND study has investigated smaller programs and the role they play in meeting important national objectives in space. This report reviews the factors leading to the growth in small spacecraft programs and the effects of associated cost reduction approaches. Although the report includes references to some Department of Defense DoD missions, it focuses on National Aeronautics and Space Administrations NASAs science missions, and the conclusion and recommendations presented reflect this concentration. As small spacecraft take on a more central role, it is critical that decisionmakers appreciate the dynamics of smaller programs and maintain realistic expectations of their potentials. As part of this study, 12 small spacecraft programs were analyzed. The purpose of this analysis was to examine spacecraft development trends to highlight areas in which new strategies have proven effective in reducing cost and increasing performance. At the request of OSTP and 0MB, special attention was focused on the role that technology plays in small spacecraft missions and the processes used to evaluate the performance of these missions. The insights presented in this report are related to many elements of current civil and military space policy and should be of interest to OSTP and 0MB officials in oversight and policy positions. Additionally, it is hoped that the report will serve as a useful reference for DoD and NASA program officials charged with streamlining future missions. Some aspects of the discussion related to technology programs might also be of interest to NASA managers responsible for the new systems needed to meet future scientific requirements.

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  • Astronautics
  • Administration and Management

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