NRC Praises NASA Tech Roadmaps, but Says More Commercial Focus Needed

NRC Praises NASA Tech Roadmaps, but Says More Commercial Focus Needed

The National Research Council’s (NRC’s) interim report reviewing the 14 technology roadmaps created by NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist (OCT) is generally supportive. The NRC study committee reviewing the roadmaps suggested substantial changes to only one of the 14 roadmaps. However, it also found that more focus on the needs of the commercial sector is warranted.

NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun developed the roadmaps for technology developments ranging from launch and in-space propulsion to entry, descent and landing systems. He then asked the NRC’s Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board to review them. The NRC issued an interim report last week.

The NRC agreed with most of NASA’s “technology area breakdown structures” (TABS) for each of the 14 areas. The exception was the area of Robotics, TeleRobotics and Autonomous Systems. The NRC found that a complete rewrite of that TABS is needed. The NRC also found that the roadmaps need to be updated in light of two recent NRC Decadal Surveys released since the roadmaps were developed. Those Decadal Surveys are on life and microgravity sciences in space and planetary science.

In light of the Obama Administration’s focus on commercial space activities, perhaps the most interesting observation in the report is that “the content of the draft roadmaps could be improved by giving more consideration to the needs of the commercial sector.” Specifically, the NRC committee said that NASA’s contribution to encouraging and facilitating a commercial space sector, as mandated in the 2010 National Space Policy, would be “enhanced” by a program that identifies how the commercial sector would benefit from advanced technologies, appropriately develops pre-competitive technology for the commercial space sector, and transfers advanced technologies to U.S. industry.

The NRC’s final report is expected in early 2012.

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