Independent Review Board Makes Recommendations for GDC

An Independent Review Board under contract to NASA has completed its assessment of the overall architecture and technical concept for the Geospace Dynamics Constellation mission, or GDC. The Board’s report and NASA’s response have been published.

NASA asked the Independent Review Board to review GDC’s overall architecture and technical concept, focusing on three specific points:

  1. Are the scope, cost, and schedule understood and properly aligned?
  2. Is the management approach and structure adequate for a project of this scope and complexity?
  3. Are the GDC science team and the planned collaborations structured and focused to maximize the return on NASA’s investment, both scientifically and for potential contributions to national interests?

The Independent Review Board included experts from the scientific and technical communities who have deep experience with spaceflight missions and space weather activities. The assessment took just over three months and was performed via plenary sessions, subpanels, interviews, attendance at community meetings, and one-on-one interviews with project personnel and other key stakeholders.

View the full report and NASA’s response.

Findings

The Independent Review Board concluded that NASA’s implementation of GDC addresses the primary recommendations in the 2013–2022 Decadal Survey in Solar and Space Physics and is strongly supported by the heliophysics community and the broader national community of stakeholders.

The Independent Review Board also found that the unprecedented observations this mission will make will enhance our understanding of prevailing space weather conditions in the ionosphere-thermosphere system on local, regional, and global scales. These measurements will lead to improvements in ionosphere-thermosphere models that are foundational for better understanding of near-Earth space, as well as improve space weather prediction.

Recommendations

The Independent Review Board made 12 recommendations, which cover topics such as project cost and schedule, strategic communication, and inter-agency collaborations.

It determined the current budget for GDC does not support the mission’s schedule to be ready to launch in 2029 and is not sufficient for the mission’s scope. The Independent Review Board found the 2029 launch readiness date logistically viable, but without additional funding, the mission would have to wait until at least 2032 to launch, which would lead to additional costs. In order to reduce risk and uncertainty, it recommended GDC’s funding and phasing be corrected to better align with development plans.

Citing GDC’s importance to national interests and scientific advancements, it recommended increased coordination and collaboration with scientific and operational partners as part of a larger NASA strategy.

NASA’s response to these and the other recommendations can be found in the document linked above.

 NASA’s Response

The Independent Review Board’s report and NASA’s response to the recommendations have been published.

NASA’s Heliophysics Division also will hold a virtual town hall at 1 p.m. EDT, Monday, Oct. 24, where Division staff will provide the community with a status update, including discussions about the Decadal Survey for Solar and Space Physics (Heliophysics) 2024-2033 and other exciting endeavors, such as the Heliophysics Big Year. During the town hall, the Independent Review Board’s findings and recommendations for GDC, as well as NASA’s plans to address them, will be discussed.

Members of the science community, academia, media, and public are invited to join the discussion: https://science.nasa.gov/researchers/virtual-townhall

By Denise Hill
NASA Headquarters, Washington

 

 

 

 

Independent Review Board of GDC Architecture to Begin

On April 10, 2022, NASA chartered an Independent Review Board to review the overall architecture and technical concept for NASA’s Geospace Dynamics Constellation, or GDC – a mission to study how the giant magnetic bubble around Earth, the magnetosphere, interacts with Earth’s upper atmosphere.

NASA regularly uses such review boards to review strategic missions for robustness and to ensure maximum return on NASA’s investment.

GDC is a NASA Heliophysics mission that will observe the coupling between Earth’s magnetosphere and the ionosphere-thermosphere system – and how that coupled system responds to energy streaming in from the Sun and the rest of space. GDC will be the first mission to study these effects on a global scale by using a constellation of spacecraft that will allow for concurrent, multi-point observations.

The Independent Review Board is tasked with providing an assessment and recommendations that maximize the probability of mission success – scientifically and technically – as well as how best to enhance the larger NASA heliophysics portfolio. The board comprises experts in relevant science, technical, and programmatic fields and is expected to produce a final report and conclude its work around August 2022. Orlando Figueroa, retired deputy center director for science and technology at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and Maura E. Hagan, professor emeritus of physics at Utah State University in Logan, Utah, were selected as co-chairs to lead the board and together offer decades of experience in ionosphere-thermosphere system research and NASA program leadership.