NASA is operating about 60 Science missions with over 70 spacecraft, most of which involve collaboration with international partners or other U.S. agencies. Work on over 40 missions in formulation and development continues.
Suborbital flights using aircraft, sounding rockets, and balloons are ongoing, as are more than 3,000 competitively selected research awards to scientists located at universities, NASA field Centers, industry, and other government agencies.
On December 9, 2016, NASA released an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the next New Frontiers mission. Two new Discovery missions (Lucy and Psyche) are now in formulation, after NASA selected them on January 4, 2018.


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


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.


Mars Atmospheric and Volatile EvolutioN

Active Mission

Give insight into the history of Mars' atmosphere and climate, liquid water and planetary habitability by determining how volatiles from the Martian atmosphere have escaped into space over time.

Launch: 18 Nov 2013 - Mars Orbit insertion: 21 Sep 2014.

Mission Extended at Ceres

DAWN: First to Explore a Dwarf Planet

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.

Missions Extended... until the Crash!


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. 

Mission Extended

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter(MRO)

Now in its fourth mission extension after a two-year prime mission, the orbiter and its suite of powerful instruments are investigating seasonal and longer-term changes on the surface of Mars.
Launch: 12 Aug 2005 - Science Mission:: 1 Mar 2006 - 1 Jul 2008 -Mars Orbit Insertion: 10 Mar 2006.

How We Select Spacecrafts Missions


Phase A: concept and technology development; and

Phase B: preliminary design and technology completion.

Programs and projects follow their appropriate life cycle. The life cycle is divided into phases. Transition from one phase to another requires management approval at Key Decision Points (KDPs). The phases in program and project life cycles include one or more life-cycle reviews, which are considered major milestone events.
NASA places significant emphasis on project Formulation to ensure adequate preparation of project concepts and plans and mitigation of high-risk aspects of the project essential to position the project for the highest probability of mission success. During Formulation, the project explores the full range of implementation options, defines an affordable project concept to meet requirements, and develops needed technologies. The activities in these phases include developing the system architecture; completing mission and preliminary system designs; acquisition planning; conducting safety, technical, cost, and schedule risk trades; developing time-phased cost and schedule estimates and documenting the basis of these estimates; and preparing the Project Plan for Implementation.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a program or project to transition into Phase A and authorizes Formulation of the project. Phase A is the first phase of Formulation and means that:  The project addresses a critical NASA need;  The proposed mission concept(s) is feasible;  The associated planning is sufficiently mature to begin activities defined for formulation; and  The mission can likely be achieved as conceived.

System Requirements Review (SRR)

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates whether the functional and performance requirements defined for the system are responsive to the program’s requirements on the project and represent achievable capabilities

System Definition Review or Mission Definition Review

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the credibility and responsiveness of the proposed mission/system architecture to the program requirements and constraints on the project, including available resources, and determines whether the maturity of the project’s mission/system definition and associated plans are sufficient to begin the next phase, Phase B.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a program or project to transition from Phase A to Phase B. Phase B is the second phase of Formulation and means that:  The proposed mission/system architecture is credible and responsive to program requirements and constraints, including resources;  The maturity of the project’s mission/system definition and associated plans is sufficient to begin Phase B; and  The mission can likely be achieved within available resources with acceptable risk.

Preliminary Design Review (PDR)

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the completeness/consistency of the planning, technical, cost, and schedule baselines developed during Formulation. This review also assesses compliance of the preliminary design with applicable requirements and determines if the project is sufficiently mature to begin Phase C.


Phase C: final design and fabrication;

Phase D: system assembly, integration, test, launch and checkout;

Phase E: operations and sustainment; and

Phase F: closeout.

A life-cycle review is designed to provide the program or project with an opportunity to ensure that it has completed the work of that phase and an independent assessment of a program’s or project’s technical and programmatic status and health. The final life-cycle review in a given life-cycle phase provides essential information for the KDP that marks the end of that life-cycle phase and transition to the next phase if successfully passed. As such, KDPs serve as gates through which programs and projects must pass to continue.
The KDP decision to authorize a program or project’s transition to the next life-cycle phase is based on a number of factors, including technical maturity; continued relevance to Agency strategic goals; adequacy of cost and schedule estimates; associated probabilities of meeting those estimates (confidence levels); continued affordability with respect to the Agency’s resources; maturity and the readiness to proceed to the next phase; and remaining program or project risk (safety, cost, schedule, technical, management, and programmatic). At the KDP, the key program or project cost, schedule, and content parameters that govern the remaining life-cycle activities are established.
For reference, a description of schedule commitments and milestones is listed below for projects in Formulation and Implementation. A list of common terms used in mission planning is also included.
Implementation occurs when Agency management establishes baseline cost and schedule commitments for projects at KDP-C. The projects maintain the baseline commitment through the end of the mission. Projects are baselined for cost, schedule, and programmatic and technical parameters. Under Implementation, projects are able to execute approved plans development and operations.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a program or project to begin the first stage of development and transition to Phase C and authorizes the Implementation of the project. Phase C is first stage of development and means that:  The project’s planning, technical, cost, and schedule baselines developed during Formulation are complete and consistent;  The preliminary design complies with mission requirements;  The project is sufficiently mature to begin Phase C; and  The cost and schedule are adequate to enable mission success with acceptable risk.

Critical Design Review (CDR)

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the integrity of the project design and its ability to meet mission requirements with appropriate margins and acceptable risk within defined project constraints, including available resources. This review also determines if the design is appropriately mature to continue with the final design and fabrication phase.

System Integration Review (SIR)

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the readiness of the project and associated supporting infrastructure to begin system assembly, integration, and test. The lifecycle review also evaluates whether the remaining project development can be completed within available resources, and determine if the project is sufficiently mature to begin Phase D.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a project to continue in Implementation and transition from Phase C to Phase D. Phase D is a second phase in Implementation; the project continues in development and means that:  The project is still on plan;  The risk is commensurate with the project’s payload classification; and  The project is ready for assembly, integration and test with acceptable risk within its Agency baseline commitment.

Launch Readiness Date (LRD)

The date at which the project and its ground, hardware, and software systems are ready for launch.

Other Common Terms for Mission Planning

Decision Authority

The individual authorized by the Agency to make important decisions on programs and projects under their authority.

Formulation Authorization Document

The document that authorizes the formulation of a program whose goals will fulfill part of the Agency’s Strategic Plan and Mission Directorate strategies. This document establishes the expectations and constraints for activity in the Formulation phase.

Key Decision Point (KDP)

The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a program or project to progress to the next phase of the life cycle. The KDP also establishes the content, cost, and schedule commitments for the ensuing phase(s).

Launch Manifest

This list that NASA publishes (the “NASA Flight Planning Board launch manifest”) periodically, which includes the expected launch dates for NASA missions. The launch dates in the manifest are the desired launch dates approved by the NASA Flight Planning Board, and are not typically the same as the Agency Baseline Commitment schedule dates. A launch manifest is a dynamic schedule that is affected by real world operational activities conducted by NASA and multiple other entities. It reflects the results of a complex process that requires the coordination and cooperation by multiple users for the use of launch range and launch contractor assets. Moreover, the launch dates are a mixture of “confirmed” range dates for missions launching within approximately six months, and contractual/planning dates for the missions beyond six months from launch. The NASA Flight Planning Board launch manifest date is typically earlier than the Agency Baseline Commitment schedule date to allow for the operationally driven delays to the launch schedule that may be outside of the project’s control.

Operational Readiness Review

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the readiness of the project, including its ground systems, personnel, procedures, and user documentation, to operate the flight system and associated ground system(s), in compliance with defined project requirements and constraints during the operations phase.

Mission Readiness Review or Flight Readiness Review (FRR)

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the readiness of the project, ground systems, personnel and procedures for a safe and successful launch and flight/mission.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of a project to continue in Implementation and transition from Phase D to Phase E. Phase E is a third phase in Implementation and means that the project and all supporting systems are ready for safe, successful launch and early operations with acceptable risk.

Decommissioning Review

The lifecycle review in which the decision authority evaluates the readiness of the project to conduct closeout activities. The review includes final delivery of all remaining project deliverables and safe decommissioning of space flight systems and other project assets.


The lifecycle gate at which the decision authority determines the readiness of the project’s decommissioning. Passage through this gate means the project has met its program objectives and is ready for safe decommissioning of its assets and closeout of activities. Scientific data analysis may continue after this period.

Credit: FY 2018 Budget Request Executive Summary, Explanation of Budget Tables and Schedules (NASA)

For further details, go to:
. NASA Procedural Requirement 7120.5E NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Requirements:
. NASA Procedural Requirement NPR 7123.1B - NASA Systems Engineering Processes and Requirements: .
. NASA Launch Services Web site:

Mission Extended

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) was sent to the Moon to make high-resolution maps of the composition of the lunar surface and seek out potential sources of water-ice that may exist inthe bottom of dark polar craters. The spacecraft is seeking potential landing sites and resources for future human exploration of the Moon. LRO was launched with the LCROSS lunar impact mission.

Lauch: 18 Jun 2009 - Arrival in Lunar Orbit: 23 Jun 2009.
LCROSS launch: 18 JUN 2009 - CENTAUR IMPACT: 9 OCT 2009

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."


Some Spacecrafts Missions For Planetary Science Goals - Future, Active & Historical Missions.


Active Mission

The Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer, or OSIRIS-REx, spacecraft is the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth.

 Launched September 2016, the Spacecraft is en route to the primitive, near Earth asteroid Bennu, while will be reach in 2018. Two ounces of material for return to Earth in 2023. 

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.


Mission in Development

BepiColombo @ Mercury

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.

Mission Extended... until Death

Voyager 1 & 2

Voyager 1 and 2 were designed to take advantage of a rare planetary alignment to explore the outer solar system. Voyager 2 targeted Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. Like it's sister spacecraft, Voyager 2 also was designed to study the edge of our solar system beyond the planets.
Voyager 1 targeted Jupiter and Saturn before continuing on to chart the far edges of our solar system.

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

James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)

In Development

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.