NASA meeting works to define exploration architecture
WASHINGTON — NASA officials met last week to review its overall exploration architecture, although it was unclear exactly what they agreed to and when they will make it public.
Agency leaders met at the Kennedy Space Center for what NASA calls the Architecture Concept Review, a meeting linked to the development of 63 objectives for its lunar and Mars exploration plans released in September.
“Today is the start of NASA’s Architecture Concept Review, where we’ll gain concurrence on our Moon to Mars architecture amongst our colleagues, enabling us to work toward the same plan,” tweeted Catherine Koerner, deputy associate administrator for exploration systems development, on the first day of the meeting Jan. 23.
NASA officials had previously discussed developing an architecture designed to achieve those objectives. “We have a founding principle to architect from the right and execute from the left,” NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said during a presentation at the International Astronautical Congress in September where the agency released the updated list of objectives. That meant, she explained, developing an architecture to meet a desired goal and use that to guide work on existing programs.
Koerner provided several updates over three days about the review, but focused on the process rather than its contents. “Yesterday and today, we worked on resolving comments to the document from our colleagues – again coming to consensus to ensure we are recommending an architecture that follows what we want to achieve at the Moon and Mars that everyone can see themselves in,” she tweeted Jan. 25.
The document she was referring to was the Architecture Definition Document, which she described as one that linked the exploration objectives “with functions needed and use cases.”
Other NASA officials mentioned the review and document development in other settings. The document will “completely define what this architecture is going to look like, how we evolve it,” said Debbie Korth, Orion deputy program manager at the Johnson Space Center, during a panel discussion at the AIAA SciTech Forum Jan. 23. That evolution, she said, would go from early Artemis landing missions, where two astronauts will spend up to six and a half days on the lunar surface, to later, more advanced missions “for proving out the things that we would want to do when we go to Mars.”
At a Jan. 25 briefing about the upcoming Crew-6 commercial crew mission to the International Space Station, Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for space operations, noted she participated in part of the review. “I’m sure there’s going to be lots of opportunities within NASA and our international partners to be future collaboration as we’re making these really critical steps to go to moon and to prepare ourselves to go to Mars,” she said.
However, she didn’t go into any details about the meeting or its outcome. “I don’t want to give any spoiler alerts to further news that Jim Free will be bringing out over the next few months,” she said, referring to the agency’s associate administrator for exploration systems development.
Other NASA officials offered few insights about both the outcome of the review and when it might be shared with the public. Korth said that there will “very soon” be public documents to discuss the architecture and how they support the objectives. That review will happen annually, she added, to incorporate new developments. “This isn’t a one-and-done architecture review.”
However, she and other NASA officials on the conference panel said they didn’t know when any documents linked to the architecture review will be made public. “They’re poring through the comments. It depends on how much they get through this week and what’s left to get resolved,” she said.
“We still have more updates to make to the document before we release it publicly, but this review was a critical step to getting a baseline architecture,” Koerner tweeted.