Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Cost of the MSL Launch Slip

Van Kane has a couple of posts from yesterday's special Planetary Science Subcommittee (PSS) meeting on the effects of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) launch slip. Van listened in on the telecon, and posted about it on his Future Planetary Exploration blog. This new cost overrun could adversely affect the next Discovery Announcement of Opportunity and increase risk for Juno, a New Frontiers-class mission bound for Jupiter.

In December, the launch for the next-generation Mars rover slipped from September-October 2009 to late 2011. This launch slip increased the cost of MSL by $400 million, which must be absorbed, some how, by NASA's planetary science budget. At the PSS meeting yesterday, several recommendations were presented for where this $400 million would come from. Before deciding on where the funds would come from, NASA set a few (very good) ground-rules: currently planned missions would be launched as scheduled, though the Juno and MSL launch windows over lap, which will need to be worked around; the New Frontiers AO will proceed as planned; R&A funding won't be touched (considering that this is where my salary comes from, I for one love this rule); and the Outer Planets Flagship mission will proceed as planned.

According to Van, the vast majority of the over run would be accommodated by using funds currently allocated for technology development for future Mars missions, such as mid-size rovers and the sample return mission. The rest, approximately $47 million, could come from delaying in the next Discovery mission AO (affecting the Io Volcano Observer proposal) by a year, reducing the reserve funds for the Jupiter-bound Juno mission, or delaying the International Lunar Network mission.

Presentations from this special meeting have not yet been posted online.

Link: Future Planetary Exploration []

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