Technology Readiness Level, Schedule Risk and Slippage in Spacecraft Design: Data Analysis and Modeling
Dubos, Gregory F.
Saleh, Joseph H.
Braun, Robert D.
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Schedule slippage plagues the space industry, and is antinomic with the recent emphasis on space responsiveness. The Government Accountability Office has repeatedly noted the difficulties encountered by the Department of Defense in keeping its acquisition of space systems on schedule, and identified the low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of the system/payload under development as a principal culprit driving schedule risk and slippage. In this paper, we analyze based on data from past space programs the relationship between technology uncertainty and schedule risk in the acquisition of space systems, and propose an analytical framework to identify appropriate schedule margins for mitigating the risk of schedule slippage. We also introduce the TRL-schedule-risk curves to help program managers make riskinformed decisions regarding the appropriate schedule margins for a given program, or the appropriate TRL to consider should the program’s schedule be exogenously and rigidly constrained. We recommend based on our findings, that the industry adopts and develops schedule risk curves (instead of single schedule point estimates), 2) that these schedule risk curves be made available to policy- and decision-makers in acquisition programs; and 3) that adequate schedule margins be defined according to an agreed upon and acceptable schedule risk level.