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:
- Are the scope, cost, and schedule understood and properly aligned?
- Is the management approach and structure adequate for a project of this scope and complexity?
- 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.
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.
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.
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