New Frontiers AO Community Announcement

Community Announcement Regarding New Frontiers Program Announcement of Opportunity

Estimated Release of draft AO ……………………………July 2016 (target)
Estimated Release of final AO……………………………….January 2017 (target)
Estimated Proposal due date………………………………….90 days after AO release

This community announcement is an advance notice of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) plan to release a Draft Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for New Frontiers Program mission investigations with a target release date of July 2016.

The New Frontiers Program conducts Principal Investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMD’s planetary programs under a not-to-exceed cost cap for the PI-Managed Mission Cost (PMMC).  At the conclusion of Phase A concept studies, it is planned that one New Frontiers investigation will be selected to continue into subsequent mission phases.  There will be no Missions of Opportunity (MO) solicited as part of this AO.  All MOs are now solicited through the Stand Alone Mission of Opportunity Notice (SALMON) AO.  New Frontiers Program investigations must address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan.  Both documents are now available at http://science.nasa.gov/about-us/science-strategy/.

Investigations are limited to the following mission themes (listed without priority):

Comet Surface Sample Return,
Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return,
Ocean Worlds (Titan and Enceladus),
Saturn Probe,
Trojan Tour and Rendezvous, and
Venus In Situ Explorer.

Five themes are described in the Planetary Science Decadal Survey.  The Ocean Worlds theme for this announcement is tentatively focused on the search for signs of extant life and/or characterizing the potential habitability of Titan or Enceladus.   The draft AO will fully elucidate information on the mission themes.

The time frame for the solicitation is intended to be:

Release of final AO…………………………………….January 2017 (target)
Preproposal conference……………………………..~3 weeks after final AO release
Proposals due ……………………………………………~90 days after AO release
Selection for competitive Phase A studies….November 2017 (target)
Concept study reports due………………………….October 2018 (target)
Down-selection ………………………………………….May 2019 (target)
KDP B ………………………………………………………..August 2019 (target)
Launch readiness date ………………………………2024

PI-Managed Mission Cost (PMMC) for investigations are capped at a Phase A-D cost of $850M (FY 2015$) with exclusions as noted in this announcement.  The now-standard 25% minimum reserve on Phases A-D will be required within the PMMC.  Operations costs (Phase E and F) are not included in the PMMC, but will be evaluated for reasonableness.  This exclusion for operation costs will not apply to the development of flight or ground software, ground hardware, or testbed development or refurbishment that occurs after launch.  These activities will be considered deferred Phase C/D work and their costs will be included under the PMMC.  Only costs related to spacecraft operations will be excluded from the PMMC.  Lower-cost investigations and cost-efficient operations are encouraged.

Launch Vehicle costs and procurement will be the responsibility of NASA.  A standard launch performance capability will be defined and provided as GFE and its cost will not be included in the PMMC.  The cost of mission specific and special launch services, such as for higher performance launch vehicles or the use of nuclear materials, are the responsibility of the PI and must be included within the PMMC.  Details of these costs are still under discussion.

The value of foreign contributions remains constrained as was done for the recent Discovery Program AO.  The total value of foreign contributions may not exceed one-third of the PMMC, and the value of foreign contributions to the science payload may not exceed one-third of the total payload cost.

Investigations may propose the use Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (MMRTG) and Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs).  Some of the costs for the use of these systems and materials will be included in the PMMC as detailed below.  These costs are not final and may change.

Up to three MMRTGs are available at the cost of $105M for one unit, $135M for two units, and $165M for three units.  The cost for the unit(s) is included in the PMMC.  In addition, the usage of MMRTG(s) requires delaying the LRD by at least one year to no earlier than 2025 to allow for mission-specific funding to support provision of MMRTGs.

43 RHUs are available as GFE, and the cost of the units is not included in the PMMC.  However, the PMMC will include approximately $26M of costs associated with the use of RHUs.

In addition to the costs above, investigations using either MMRTGs or RHUs will also incur approximately $28M or $21M, respectively, in costs for special launch services against the PMMC.

NASA will provide incentives for technology infusion into New Frontiers investigations.  NASA is considering providing technologies as Government-Furnished Equipment (GFE), including up to 43 RHUs and the NASA Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion propulsion system (two flight model power processing units and two thrusters).  NASA is also considering providing an increase to the PMMC cap for investigations utilizing the Heat Shield for Extreme Entry Environment Technology (HEEET), a woven Thermal Protection System.  In addition, NASA is considering limiting the risk assessment of certain technologies to only their accommodation on the spacecraft and the mission environment.

This incentivized technology list is not complete, and decisions on the specific technologies and the nature of their associated incentives will be made before the release of a draft AO.  A Technology Workshop will be held in early 2016 to provide technology developers a chance to provide detailed information to proposers.  All NASA-incentivized technologies will participate in this workshop, but other participants will be welcome as well.

New Frontiers Program investigations involving entry, descent, and landing (EDL) into the atmosphere of a Solar System object (including the Earth) shall include an Engineering Science Activity, to be funded outside of the cost cap, to obtain diagnostic and technical data about vehicle performance and entry environments. Details of the goals and objectives of this activity will be posted on the New Frontiers Program Acquisition Website (http://newfrontiers.larc.nasa.gov/) in the Program Library.

New Frontiers Program investigations may propose activities that have the potential to broaden the scientific impact of investigations as optional Science Enhancement Options (SEOs).  SEOs include, but are not limited to, guest investigator programs, general observer programs, participating scientist programs, interdisciplinary scientist programs, and archival data analysis programs.  NASA is considering allowing New Frontiers Program investigations to also propose Technology Demonstration Opportunities (TDOs) to demonstrate new capabilities.  TDOs and SEOs are funded outside of the PMMC cap and may possibly not be selected even if the parent mission is selected for flight.

NASA will release a draft of the New Frontiers AO in the summer of 2016.  The draft AO will be based on the recent Discovery AO, as well as the Standard PI-led Mission AO Template.  NASA has begun its regular assessment and revision of the Standard AO, and, once it is complete, the Draft New Frontiers AO will be written and provided for public comment.  Proposers should read the Draft New Frontiers AO carefully when it is released.

NASA has not approved the issuance of the New Frontiers AO and this notification does not obligate NASA to issue the AO and solicit proposals. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this notification or the planned Draft New Frontiers AO are incurred completely at the submitter’s own risk.

Further information will be posted on the New Frontiers Program Acquisition Page at http://newfrontiers.larc.nasa.gov/ as it becomes available.

Questions may be addressed to Dr. Curt Niebur, New Frontiers Program Lead Scientist, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC 20546; Tel.: (202) 358-0390; E-mail: curt.niebur@nasa.gov.

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