August 1, 2012.
The Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) focuses on maturing technologies that will further NASA’s future space missions. The FOP aims to bridge the technology gap by advancing payloads from a technology readiness level (TRL) of 4 or 5 where lab testing has been validated, to a TRL of 6 where the payloads are successfully tested in a relevant spaceflight environment. These relevant environments include the capability to operate at high altitudes, reduced gravity, and the ability to perform vertical takeoff and landing. With a successful TRL 6 test, the next step for the technology maturation is to test the payload in an operational space environment on orbit before finally implementing it onto a NASA space mission. The role of the FOP is to match the payload with an appropriate test platform from a pool of flight providers for testing in a relevant space environment. The FOP can determine how to maximize the number of payloads per flight and minimize costs. This can be done by modeling flight supply and modeling payload demand, and showing how the two balance over time. The graphs will be fit with a polynomial curve fitting algorithm and used as a planning tool to predict the number of payloads and flights FOP needs to support in the future. FOP is then able to purchase flights wisely based on expected needs, maximizing the opportunities for payload providers.
NASA Armstrong (Formerly Dryden) Flight Research Center
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).