ASK OCE — November 3, 2006 — Vol. 1, Issue 15
National Research Council
Assesses NASA's Space Communications Office
NASA's Space Communications Office is well managed and highly effective at carrying out critical functions, according to a preliminary review by the National Research Council (NRC).
A key component of NASA’s space communications capability, the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS), is considered a national strategic asset because it supports NASA missions as well as those of other agencies ranging from the Department of Defense to the National Science Foundation. NASA currently projects a gap in TDRSS's ability to meet the needs of non-NASA users as early as 2010 and NASA users by 2015. The NRC recommended that NASA should work with the broad community of TDRSS users to accelerate upgrades to the system so as to address these gaps in a timely manner.
The National Research Council noted that it learned during the final stages of its review that NASA is considering the adoption of a more centralized approach to its space communications functions. It pointed out that centralized management and funding of space communications through NASA headquarters served the agency well until 1996, when these functions were disaggregated. It recommended that plans to centralize NASA's space communications programs should only be made with a transition plan in place as well as a clear understanding of lessons learned from previous reorganization efforts.
It also emphasized that the charter for its current study only permitted it to review the functions of the Space Communications Office (SCO) within the Space Operations Mission Directorate (SOMD). NASA has other space communications functional organizations, such as the Deep Space Network, which falls under the management of its Science Mission Directorate (SMD) rather than SOMD. The NRC suggested that NASA would benefit from a comprehensive review of all the agency’s space communications functions, and that NASA might authorize such a review while it is reviewing centralization options.
Read the National Research Council's "Review of the Space Communications Program of NASA's Space Operations Mission Directorate."