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SSO Small Explorer Acquistion.

SSO Small Explorer Acquistion.

Science Support Office: Explorer Acquisition


SMEX 2007 Announcement of Opportunity

Community Announcement Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1: Why is NASA instituting minimum PI space flight experience standards for this AO?
A1: NASA is instituting minimum PI space flight experience standards for this and all future PI mission selections in order to reduce the inherent risk in PI-led missions with PIs who have never played a significant role in a space flight mission or instrument development. This risk jeopardizes PI-led mission cost and schedule attainability, and can affect mission technical risk level. Cost, schedule, and technical problems in turn adversely affect the frequency of future missions NASA can mount, and jeopardize the viability of PI-led missions. The PI experience standards we are implementing are designed to significantly mitigate these issues to the benefit of NASA and the science community. Proposers should note that other senior mission science team personnel such as mission Deputy PI, Project Scientist, Chief Scientist, Science Team Lead, and instrument PIs that may be involved in PI-led missions need not meet the same space flight experience standards as the mission PI, though their experience level will remain a factor in TMC evaluations.
Q2: So only experienced PIs can be the PI for a SMEX proposal?
A2: That is incorrect. There are three parts to the minimum space flight experience standards for a SMEX PI: (a) senior project experience on a (b) project that went into (c) space. (a) A SMEX PI needs to have served previously as the PI, the Deputy PI, the Project Scientist (PS), or the Deputy PS on a qualifying space project. (b) A qualifying space project can be a full mission, an instrument, or an experiment. (c) The qualifying project must have been a space project that has been launched. A space project is one that goes into the space or near-space environment. Space projects include suborbital projects (sounding rockets, scientific balloons), orbital projects, and deep space projects.
Q3: Do the minimum PI space flight experience standards apply to PIs for Missions of Opportunity as well?
A3: Please wait for the AO. We do not anticipate a change in policy for MO PIs from that specified in earlier AOs.
Q4: Will the requirement for a specific title be applied rigidly? I have been the instrument scientist for a successful instrument on a NASA satellite. But I never had the formal title of "project scientist." Does this mean I am not qualified to be the PI for a SMEX proposal?
A4: If you have carried out the duties of one of the named positions (PI, Deputy PI, PS, Deputy PS) with the same responsibilities and authorities, then you have met the minimum PI space flight experience standards for this AO.
Q5: Can you please tell me what the status of release of a MIDEX AO is?
A5: NASA does not plan to release a MIDEX AO in FY2008. Since there are no Delta-II launch vehicles available to NASA at this time, or even Delta-II class LVs, NASA has not, as of now, determined what the future of the MIDEX program is.
Q6: I have some questions about the launch services offered. I presume Pegasus is available, I am also wondering about the Taurus, in particular the XL version. In addition, will any of the Minotaur series be available?
A6: NASA intends to procure a launch vehicle with the following capabilities: For a Low Earth Orbit launch, 28.5 degree inclination, 600 km, the lift capability is up to 345 kg. For a Sun Synchronous Orbit launch, 90 degree inclination, 600 km, the lift capability is up to 250 kg. The AO will not specify specific launch vehicles.
Q7: I read in the recent NSPIRES release regarding the NASA Explorer Program Announcement of Opportunity that the Explorer Program conducts Principal Investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMDs astrophysics and heliophysics programs. Does this mean that the AO is not interested in proposals for science missions to study Earth Science?
Q8: Can you tell me (and the community) whether or not planetary (i.e., non-heliospheric physics, non-astrophysics) instruments for missions of opportunity will be considered?
A7-8: The Explorer Program develops missions addressing scientific questions in the area of Astrophysics and Heliophysics. Missions addressing planetary science or Earth science questions are not sponsored by the Explorer Program and will not be solicited in this AO. Missions addressing the objectives of Planetary Science are addressed in the Discovery Program. Missions addressing the objectives of Earth Science are addressed in the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program. Information in the goals, objectives and history of the Explorer Program may be found at
Q9: Previous SMEX AOs have explicitly said that the scope of the investigations included test of fundamental laws of physics as they might be relevant to astrophysics and cosmology. Will this be the case in the upcoming SMEX AO as well?
A9:Yes. Please read the NASA Science Plan to see what aspects of fundamental Physics are part of NASAs science strategy.
Q10: I would like to enquire whether a contribution of a detector system by a US research group to a non-US would be allowable under the terms of the definition of "Mission of Opportunity" as currently envisioned in the forthcoming Small Explorer AO?
Q11: Is it conceivable that a ground-based opportunity, funded primarily by other US federal agencies, could be considered a candidate for NASA participation as an MO, if it can be demonstrated that the project has direct relevance and significance for meeting NASA objectives?
Q12: We are planning to submit a MoO in response to the upcoming SMEX AO. Will NASA require some sort of formal endorsement from the foreign entity expressly seeking our participation? If so, I would appreciate any information that you are able to pass on to me as to the precise form that such a request should take so that I may initiate the process at the foreign party's end.
Q13: Following the recent notice about the upcoming release of a SMEX AO, I am interested in knowing if it will be open to international participation.
Q14: The cost cap is given as $105M in FY08 dollars. Is this the total mission cost cap, or just the NASA cost cap? Is there a limit on the amount of non-NASA contributions?
A10 - 14: Please wait for the AO on details. We do not anticipate a major change in policy in any of these issues from previous AOs released by the Science Mission Directorate.
Q15: It is not clear to me how this AO relates to the ESA Cosmic-Vision 2015-2025 program solicitation by ESA. Should we answer also to this new SMEX-MO call?
A15: Please wait for the AO for details. Typically, NASA SMD does not entertain MOs for concept studies.
Q16: Can one propose an extrasolar planet-finding mission?
A16: Yes. Please read the NASA Science Plan to see what aspects of extrasolar planet research are part of NASAs science strategy.
Q17: I would like to know what the requirements are for a project to be considered a "Mission of Opportunity". I know that it includes US participation in a foreign missions but what type of participation is eligible? How close does the project have to be launch? Is there a web page that defines these requirements and whatever else is relevant about a Mission of Opportunity? Are there past examples?
A17: Please wait for the AO for details. In the meantime, you can look at recent AOs released by SMD for direction. We do not expect a major policy change. The Explorer webpage has a list of all selected missions and MOs.
Q18: Is there a website for a list of Explorer PI's (particularly SMEX) PI's?
A18: No, I am not aware of a website listing Explorer PI's. However, the Explorers web page does have a list of missions and each mission web page has the PI name for that mission.

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Q&As will be posted as they are made available. Address questions to:
Dr. Hashima Hasan
Explorer Program Scientist
Science Mission Directorate
Washington, DC 20546
(202) 358-0692