. Data Rights, Safety, Restricted Sample Return to Earth... for Sciences Outcomes



All NASA missions progress through phases A to F, as early concept studies (A), operational or prime phase (E) and end of life (F).


OSIRIS-REx Mission @ Asteroid Bennu



New Horizons Mission @ PLUTO



Juno's Spacecraft Mission @ Jupiter



Hayabusa-2 Mission @ Asteroid 1999 JU3



NEWS January 4, 2017 (source: NASA)

NASA has selected two missions that have the potential to open new windows on one of the earliest eras in the history of our solar system--a time less than 10 million years after the birth of our sun. The missions, known as Lucy and Psyche, were chosen from five finalists and will proceed to mission formulation, with the goal of launching in 2021 and 2023, respectively.

TIPS for the selection of spacecrafts missions

When NASA Give an ANNOUNCEMENT OF OPPORTUNITY (AO)- example, for DISCOVERY PROGRAM (or New Frontiers Program) - number: NNH14ZDA014O

NASA issues this AO for the purpose of soliciting proposals for investigations to be implemented through its Discovery Program. All investigations proposed must support the goals and objectives of the Program, must be implemented by Principal Investigator (PI) led investigation teams and through the provision of complete spaceflight missions.

Proposed investigations are evaluated and selected through a two-step competitive process.

Step-1 is the solicitation, submission, evaluation, and selection of proposals prepared in response to this AO. As the outcome of Step-1, NASA intends to select multiple Step-1 proposals and issue awards (provide funding to NASA Centers and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), award contracts to non-NASA institutions, or utilize other funding vehicles as applicable) to the selected proposers to conduct Phase A concept studies and submit Concept Study Reports to NASA.

Step-2 is the preparation, submission, evaluation, and continuation decision (downselection) of the Concept Study Reports. As the outcome of Step-2, NASA intends to continue one or more investigation(s) into the subsequent phases of mission development for flight and operations.

NASA recognizes and supports the benefits of having diverse and inclusive scientific, engineering, and technology communities and fully expects that such values will be reflected in the composition of all proposal teams as well as peer review panels (science, engineering, and technology), science definition teams, and mission and instrument teams.

NASA Flight Program and Project Requirements

Proposals selected are implemented in accordance with NASA mission management processes. These latter processes, defined by NASA Procedural Requirements (NPR) 7120.5E), the NASA Space Flight Program and the Project Management Requirements are Formulation, Approval, Implementation, and Evaluation.

So, in the NASA mission management processes, we have the Formulation divided in Phase A – Mission Concept and Requirements Definition and Technology Development; and Phase B – Preliminary Design and Technology Completion.

If Approved, that means we have the Confirmation process for transitioning into Implementationdivided into Phase C – Final Design and Fabrication; Phase D – System Assembly, Integration and Test, and Launch (extending through in-space checkout); Phase E – Operations and Sustainment; and Phase F – Closeout.

Evaluation is the ongoing independent review and assessment of the project’s status during both Formulation and Implementation as described in NPR 7120.5E, which may be found in the Program Library.

BUT, in the NPR7120.5E document, we have defined a Key Decision Point (KDP) that occurs before the project is approved to begin the next phase of development.

For missions selected, KDP-A is the selection of a Step-1 proposal for a Phase A concept study, KDP-B is the downselection of a mission to enter Phase B following evaluation of Concept Study Reports, KDP-C is the culmination of the Confirmation process, KDP-D is a transition that occurs after the Systems Integration Review, KDP-E is the handoff from development to operations, and KDP-F is the decision to terminate operations after completion of the mission. Scientific and other analyses, including data analysis and preliminary analysis of returned samples, may continue under project funding in Phase F. If the decision at downselection is to maintain the selected investigation in an extended Phase A, then a separate KDP-B will be required.

Remediation, Termination, or Cancellation

Any alteration of a mission that renders it unable to accomplish one or more of its baseline science objectives will be regarded as a descope of the investigation. NASA will review any such descoped set of achievable science objectives to ensure that the investigation remains at or above the Threshold Science Mission. A descope made necessary by the PI's inability to remain within budget or schedule, or failure at any time during formulation and implementation to maintain a level of science return at or above the Threshold Science Mission, can result in mission cancellation accompanied by appropriate contract action, which may involve termination.

During Phase A, each selected PI will conduct a concept study. The Phase A Concept Study Report must include a commitment by the PI for the PI-Managed Mission Cost, schedule, and scientific performance of the investigation. If, at any time, the cost, schedule, or scientific performance commitments made in the Phase A Concept Study Report appear to be in peril, the investigation will be subject to termination or cancellation.

During Phase B, each selected PI will work with NASA to develop top-level science and technical performance requirements. Each PI will also work with NASA to establish a set of performance metrics for project evaluation. These will include cost, schedule, and others, as appropriate.

Once an investigation has been confirmed for implementation, failure of the PI to maintain reasonable progress within committed schedule and cost, and/or failure to operate within other applicable constraints, may be cause for NASA to convene a termination review. The Associate Administrator (AA) for the Science Mission Directorate may also call for a termination review any time an excursion above the agreed upon mission cost in Phase C through Phase E occurs, or is projected to occur, by the PI, the implementing organization, or NASA.

The objective of such a review is to determine whether remedial actions, including changes in management structure and/or Key Management Team members, would better enable the project to operate within established cost, schedule, and/or technical constraints. If a termination review determines that no remedy is likely to improve matters, NASA may consider mission cancellation and/or contract termination. NASA may cancel a mission and/or terminate a contract notwithstanding any international or domestic partnerships established to enable the mission.

Discovery Program Goals and Objectives

The goal of NASA’s Discovery Program is to provide frequent flight opportunities for high quality, high value, focused, planetary science investigations that can be accomplished under a not-to-exceed cost cap.

By conducting a series of planetary science investigations, NASA will provide a mechanism by which pressing questions in planetary science may be addressed, permitting a steady improvement in our understanding of planetary systems and the processes that affect them. The frequent, steady nature of the investigations will ensure a continuing stream of fresh scientific data to the planetary science community, thus helping to maintain the excellence of the U.S. planetary science program and to inspire the next generation of investigators.

The Discovery Program strives to:

  • advance scientific knowledge and exploration of the elements of our Solar System;

  • add scientific data, maps, and other products to the Planetary Data System archive for all scientists to access;

  • announce scientific progress and results in the peer-reviewed literature, popular media, scholastic curricula, and materials that can be used to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;

  • expand the pool of well-qualified Principal Investigators and Program Managers for implementation of future missions in Discovery and other programs, through current involvement as Co-Investigators and other team members; and

  • implement technology advancements proven in related programs.

These goals and objectives are also articulated in the Discovery Program Plan, which can be found in the Program Library.

The Discovery Program was initiated in 1992 as a way to ensure frequent access to space for planetary science investigations. Previous Discovery Program AOs were released in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2006, and 2010. The completed missions in the Discovery Program are NEAR, Mars Pathfinder, Lunar Prospector, Genesis, Deep Impact, Stardust, Kepler, and GRAIL. CONTOUR was lost shortly after its launch in 2002. The three missions currently in development, operation, or analysis phase are MESSENGER, Dawn, and InSight. Four missions of opportunity, ASPERA-3, Netlander, the Moon Mineralogy Mapper and Strofio, have been selected. Netlander was terminated before launch. Aspera-3 is currently operating on ESA’s Mars Express. The Moon Mineralogy Mapper operated on ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1. Strofio is currently in development for the joint ESA-JAXA BepiColombo mission. Additionally, three investigations reusing existing spacecraft have completed operations: EPOCh and DIXI were hosted by the Deep Impact spacecraft and were joined to produce the EPOXI mission, and Stardust-NExT was hosted on the Stardust spacecraft.

Information about all previous and current Discovery missions may be found at http://discovery.nasa.gov/missions.html


In Formulation

The Lucy mission is conducting preliminary design activities in 2017.


KDP-C: Dec 2018 - KDP-D: Aug 2020 - Launch: Oct 2021

From 2027 to 2033, Lucy will explore six Jupiter Trojan asteroids.

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

In Development

Mission Critical Design Review (CDR): Mar 2010 - Rebaseline/KDP-C Amendment: Sep 2011 - System Integration Review (SIR): Oct 2017 - Launch: Oct 2018 - Begin Phase E: Apr 2019 - End of Prime Mission: Apr 2024

The 6.5-meter primary mirror consists of 18 actively controlled segments. A multilayer sunshield the size of a tennis court passively cools the mirror, telescope optics, and instruments to about 40 Kelvin. Webb will launch in 2018 from Kourou, French Guiana on an Ariane 5 rocket, contributed by the European Space Agency (ESA). Webb will operate in deep space about one million miles from Earth.

JWST will study every phase in the History of our Universe.

JWST will be launched in Jan 2018. Its End of Solar System Mission will be in Jan 2025.


DAWN: First to Explore a Dwarf Planet

Mission Extended at Ceres

Dawn is designed to study the conditions and processes of the solar system's earliest epoch by investigating in detail two of the largest protoplanets remaining intact since their formations.

The orbiter targeted the giant asteroid Vesta and dwarf planet Ceres, two main asteroid belt worlds that followed very differently evolutionary paths.

Dawn comprehensively mapped Vesta, revealing an exotic and diverse protoplanet.

Dawn spacecraft entered into its first science orbit at Ceres on 23 April 2015.

Launch: 27 Sep 2007 - Arrival at Vesta: 16 Jul 2011 - Departure from Vesta: 5 Sep 2012.

That Some Spacecraft Missions For Planetary Science Goals - active, future & historical missions

Source: https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/

BepiColombo @ Mercury

Mission in Development

An Eupoeen Space Agency (ESA) mission in cooperation with Japan. 

The Launch is scheduled for the Oct 1, 2018.


In 2017, the project entered its preliminary design phase.

The Europa Clipper mission passed its KDP-B gate review in February 2017 and is in the preliminary design and technology completion phase (Phase B).

The Europa Clipper mission will advance from Phase B (preliminary design and technology completion) to Phase C (final design and fabrication) at the beginning of FY 2019. This flagship-class mission

The Europa Clipper mission will conduct a detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa to see whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life. To do so, it will spend four years in orbit around Jupiter, conducting its scientific observations by completing multiple close fly-bys of Europa, minimizing the spacecraft's exposure to the harsh radiation environment near Europa.

NASA will like Launched This mission the 1 Jan 2025 and, Finished it the 1 Jan 2030.

Psyche @ Metal World

In Formulation

Psyche will spend 20 months orbiting 16 Psyche in four different orbital periods.

PSYCHE @ Metal Asteroid orbiting the sun between Mars and Jupiter


KDP-C: May 2019 - KDP-D: Jan 2021 - Launch: Jul 2022

InSight - Lander on Mars

Mission in Development

The mission will investigate fundamental issues of terrestrial planet formation and evolution with a study of the deep interior of Mars.

NASA plans to launch InSight in May 2018, landing on Mars in November 2018.

May 2018
June 2018
Mars Landing
Nov 2018
End of Prime Mission
Nov 2020

"NASA started implementation of the SEIS instrument repairs and has so far demonstrated a validation and qualification of the new design."


Missions Extended... until

Sept 15, 2017, Cassini was in its extended operations phase in orbit around Saturn, that altered our understanding of the planet, its famous rings, magnetosphere, icy satellites, and particularly the moons titan and Enceladus.

Cassini completed its Prime Mission in July 2008, completed its Equinox Extended Mission in July 2010, and began the Solstice Extended Mission in October 2010.

This Flagship Mission had made its Grand finale Course in September 2017 when it was launched into the atmosphere of Saturn. 

News May 5, 2017 (source: NASA)


NASA has received and is reviewing 12 proposals for future unmanned solar system exploration. The proposed missions of discovery -- submitted under NASA's New Frontiers program -- will undergo scientific and technical review over the next seven months. The goal is to select a mission for flight in about two years, with launch in the mid-2020s.

"New Frontiers is about answering the biggest questions in our solar system today, building on previous missions to continue to push the frontiers of exploration," said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "We're looking forward to reviewing these exciting investigations and moving forward with our next bold mission of discovery."

Selection of one or more concepts for Phase A study will be announced in November. At the conclusion of Phase A concept studies, it is planned that one New Frontiers investigation will be selected to continue into subsequent mission phases. Mission proposals are selected following an extensive competitive peer review process.

Investigations for this announcement of opportunity were limited to six mission themes, which ones are Comet Surface Sample Return, Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return, Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn Probe, Trojan Tour and Rendezvous and Venus In Situ Explorer

The New Frontiers Program conducts principal investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMD's (Science Mission Directorate) planetary program under a development cost cap of approximately $1 billion.

This would be the fourth mission in the New Frontiers portfolio; its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of asteroid Bennu.

New Frontiers Program investigations must address NASA's planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan.

The New Frontier Program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at the Marshall Space Flight Center for NASA's Planetary Science Division.

Source: https://planetarymissions.nasa.gov/news/181

The New Frontiers Program is designed to accomplish focused planetary science investigations, using innovative and efficient management approaches. The Program’s prime objective is to answer unique science questions in the exploration of the Solar System.

The New Frontiers Program strives to produce the following outcomes:

  • Advancement in scientific knowledge and exploration of the elements of our solar system and other planetary systems;

  • Addition of scientific data, maps, and other products to the Planetary Data System (PDS) archive for all scientists to access;

  • Announcement of scientific progress and results in the peer-reviewed literature, popular media, scholastic curricula, and materials that can be used to inspires and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics;

  • Expansion of the pool of well-qualified PIs and project managers for implementation of future missions in New Frontiers and other programs, through current involvement as Co-Investigators and other team members;

  • Implementation of technology advancement proven in related programs.

New Frontiers Program Background

The New Frontiers Program is a science program of medium-sized spacecraft missions that performs high-quality Principal Investigator (PI)-led focused scientific investigations. Initiated in 2003, the New Frontiers Program was defined to pursue planetary missions of moderate scope and high scientific priority and value. The program emphasizes competed and peer-reviewed missions that can be accomplished under the leadership of the scientific research community.

The New Frontiers Program comprises a long-term series of space science missions that are independent and uncoupled, but share a common funding and management structure. Since its inception, the program has successfully launched two missions, one of which successfully studied Pluto (New Horizons) and a second mission to study Jupiter (Juno). A third mission to return samples from an asteroid has launched and is enroute (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx)).

EXAMPLE: The Ocean Worlds mission theme is focused on the search for signs of extant life and/or characterizing the potential habitability of Titan and/or Enceladus.

For Enceladus, the science objectives (listed without priority) of this mission theme are:

  • Assess the habitability of Enceladus’ ocean; and

  • Search for signs of biosignatures and/or evidence of extant life.

For Titan, the science objectives (listed without priority) of the Ocean Worlds mission theme are:

  • Understand the organic and methanogenic cycle on Titan, especially as it relates to prebiotic chemistry; and

  • Investigate the subsurface ocean and/or liquid reservoirs, particularly their evolution and possible interaction with the surface.

Example:This solicitation has a single submission deadline. The following schedule describes the major milestones for this New Frontiers Program AO in 2016.

Release Date .....................................December 9, 2016

Preproposal Conference (target) ...........January 17, 2017

Notice of Intent to Propose Deadline ..............January 20, 2017

Electronic Proposal at 11:59 p.m. E. T. ............April 28, 2017

Letters of Commitment Due (with Proposal).............April 28, 2017

Proposal on CD-ROMs at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time ...........May 5, 2017

Step-1 Selections Announced (target) .........November 2017 

Initiate Phase A Concept Studies (target) .....December 2017 

Phase A Concept Study Reports Due (target) ....December 2018 

Downselection of Investigation(s) for Flight (target)...July 2019 

Launch Readiness Date .....................NLT December 31, 2025

All proposals, U.S. and non-U.S., must be received before the proposal submittal deadline.

Discovery Program class missions like Lucy and Psyche are relatively low-cost, their development capped at about $450 million. They are managed for NASA's Planetary Science Division by the Planetary Missions Program Office at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The missions are designed and led by a principal investigator, who assembles a team of scientists and engineers, to address key science questions about the solar system.

The Discovery Program portfolio includes 12 prior selections such as the MESSENGER mission to study Mercury, the Dawn mission to explore asteroids Vesta and Ceres, and the InSight Mars lander, scheduled to launch in May 2018.

NASA's other missions to asteroids began with the NEAR orbiter of asteroid Eros, which arrived in 2000, and continues with Dawn, which orbited Vesta and now is in an extended mission phase at Ceres. The OSIRIS-REx mission, which launched on Sept. 8, 2016, is speeding toward a 2018 rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu, and will deliver a sample back to Earth in 2023. Each mission focuses on a different aspect of asteroid science to give scientists the broader picture of solar system formation and evolution.

Read more about NASA's Discovery Program and missions at: https://discovery.nasa.gov/missions.cfml

EXAMPLE: Proposal Opportunity Period and Schedule makes by NASA in 2014 for Discovery Program.

This solicitation has a single submission deadline. The following schedule describes the planned major milestones for this ANNOUNCEMENT OF APPORTUNITY (AO):

Release Date......................November 5, 2014

Preproposal Conference ..................November 24, 2014

Notice of Intent to Propose Deadline.......December 5, 2014

Electronic Proposal Submittal Deadline at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time.............................February 16, 2015

Letters of Commitment Due (with Proposal..February 16, 2015

Deadline for Receipt of Proposal on CD-ROMs at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time ...........................February 23, 2015

Step-1 Selections Announced (target) ............June 2015

Initiate Phase A Concept Studies (target) ......July 2015

Phase A Concept Study Reports Due (target)......April 2016

Downselection of Investigation(s) for Flight (target) ..........September 2016

Launch Readiness Date.................NLT December 31, 2021

All proposals must be received before the proposal submittal deadline.

New Horizons

Mission to the Dwarf Planet Pluto

Mission Extended

The fastest spacecraft ever launched, New Horizons has traveled more time and distance - more than nine years and three billion miles - than any space mission in history to reach its primary target.

Pluto, the largest known body in the Kuiper Belt

Launch: 19 Jan 2006 - Jupiter Flyby:
28 Feb 2007 - Pluto Closest Approach14 Jul 2015.


Mission @ Asteroid 1999 JU3

Active Mission

Launching in 2014, Hayabusa 2 will be Japan's second asteroid sample-return mission.

Hayabusa-2 has been launched in Dec 2014, will arrive at Asteroid Jun 1, 2018, and, finally, will bring back Samples to Earth, Dec 1, 2020.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

Mission Extended


Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN

Active Mission

MAVEN spacecraft at Mars

Voyager 1 & 2

Mission Extended... until Death

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO)

Mission Extended