Original written, 11 February 2010
Since the recent announcement of NASA's new direction as seen in President Obama's FY2011 budget, there has been some concern about the lack of milestones, deadlines, and destinations. Just how necessary are these, is the need the same for the profit-funded NewSpace industry and publicly-funded NASA programs, and how should they be determined?
Let's begin with milestones and deadlines. In this weeks' issue of Space News in an Op-Ed entitled "Change Springs Eternal," it is correctly pointed out that "The most useful innovations tend to be developed in response to specific mission requirements; history shows that pushing technology in hopes that a future application will reveal itself is more likely than not to waste money." But there is an important caveat to this statement; this may be true for most government funded and managed programs, but it doesn't necessarily apply to private sector innovation where development dollars aren't spent to meet politically derived and driven "mission requirements."
In the private sector there is only one mission requirement; generate positive cash flow and return a profit on the investment. In the private sector, there is only one deadline; get the product to market, preferably before the ...