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NASA’s New Frontiers Announcement

May 15, 2008

If you’re not on the NASA NSPIRES email list, you missed this. Check out the PI requirements, and the comment left yesterday on our Flight Missions post. This is very good news for planetary scientists, and women in particular, due to the small numbers of “qualified” PIs using the previous terminology.

Community announcement, May 12, 2008

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science
Mission Directorate (SMD) plans to release for community comment a
draft Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the third New Frontiers
mission (NF-3) in September 2008. Approximately two weeks after the
draft is released, SMD will hold a community workshop in the
Washington, D.C., area. The final AO will be released in December
2008 with proposals due approximately 90 days later. In August 2009,
up to three missions will be selected for a 9 to 11 month Phase A
that will be funded up to $2.5M each. Downselection to a single
mission for flight will occur in fall (September to November) 2010.
Launch is to occur no earlier than 2015 and no later than 2018. This
NF-3 AO will solicit only missions that do not require nuclear
sources for power generation or propulsion, although Radioisotope
Heating Units (RHUs) and calibration sources will be allowed. The
Principal Investigator (PI) Mission Cost for all phases of the
mission will not include the launch vehicle and will be capped at
$650M in FY09 dollars.

An Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) in the Intermediate Class
with any of the fairing sizes available will be provided by NASA as
Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) at no charge against the capped
PI Mission Cost. The Intermediate Class EELV that NASA will provide
can deliver up to 5,300 kg to an orbit with a launch energy of C3=10
km2/sec2. Standard launch services will also be provided as GFE.
Special or mission unique launch services above those included in the
standard launch services must be included within the PI Mission Cost.

No minimum experience qualifications will be required of the PI, but
the experience and expertise of the proposing team will be an
evaluation factor for the evaluation of submitted NF proposals.
the cancellation of minimum PI experience requirements, NASA has
terminated prescreening for compliance with the cancelled requirements.

NASA will follow recommendations 1 and 2 of the National Research
Council’s (NRC’s) New Opportunities for Solar System Exploration
(NOSSE) committee report available at: .

Recommendation 1: In drafting the rules for the NF-3 AO, NASA should
emphasize the science objectives and questions to be addressed, not
specify measurements or techniques for the implementation.

Recommendation 2: NASA should expand the list of potential missions
in the NF-3 AO to include the three remaining candidate missions:
South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return, Venus In Situ Explorer, and
the Comet Surface Sample Return, and also the five additional
medium-sized missions mentioned in the decadal survey: Network
Science; Trojan/Centaur Reconnaissance; Asteroid Rover/Sample Return;
Io Observer; and Ganymede Observer. There is no recommended priority
for these missions. NASA should select from this set of missions
based both on science priority and overall mission viability.

This NF-3 AO will not provide a funding profile. Proposals are to
propose the optimum funding profile for the mission consistent with
the cap on PI Mission Cost and are to specify the duration and budget
requirements for Phases B through F (Closeout).

The cost of using the Deep Space Network (DSN) must be included
within the PI Mission Cost. Except for emergencies and critical
events (e.g., Entry, Descent, and Landing) when continuous coverage
is required, DSN use will be limited to a single 34 m DSN antenna at
a time. Missions are encouraged to consider the use of Ka band as appropriate.

Proposers will be given the option of selecting none or one of two
specific technologies for insertion into their mission. The two
technologies are the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) and the
Advanced Materials Bipropellant Rocket (AMBR) engine. For missions
that insert NEXT, the cap on the PI Mission Cost will be raised up to
$15M. For missions that insert AMBR, the cap on the PI Mission Cost
will be raised up to $5M. The appropriate use of these technologies
will be evaluated and could affect the risk rating of the proposals.
However, the inherent risk of these technologies has been accepted by
NASA and will not affect the evaluated risk rating of the proposals;
all proposers will receive feedback on the use of the new technology.
Once that feedback has been incorporated into the Concept Study
Reports (CSRs) of the missions selected for Phase A, both the
appropriate use and the inherent risk of these technologies will be
evaluated and could affect the risk rating of the CSRs. Any PI
considering the use of either of these technologies should contact
David J. Anderson of NASA Glenn Research Center at

The cost of complying with the National Environmental Policy Act
(NEPA) for RHUs and calibration sources must be included within the
PI Mission Cost.

Proposals must not designate an Education and Public Outreach (E/PO)
lead or describe an E/PO plan. Designation of an E/PO lead and
development of an E/PO plan is to be done during Phase A. Proposals
must allocate a budget for E/PO that does not exceed 1% of the PI
Mission Cost and proposals must contain a commitment by the PI to
provide an E/PO plan if selected.

Questions may be addressed to Dr. Adriana C. Ocampo, New Frontiers
Program Executive, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC
20546; Tel.: (202) 358-2152; Email:

2 Comments leave one →
  1. SpaceyMom permalink
    May 27, 2008 10:16 am

    I was reminded of this post as I looked through the Pheonix mission photos and it was pretty much ‘where’s waldo’ to find a woman. Hopefully this will be a meaningful path to change that.

  2. geochem-mom permalink
    May 16, 2008 11:24 am

    This is great news, and I hope it represents a realization and understanding of the impact on diversity and the “pipeline” of young scientists- male and female- such a policy would have had. I wonder if there should be some sort of positive feedback from this group or others to reinforce the decision (can you tell I’m a parent with little kids?).

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