Escape From the Space Acquisition Death Spiral

Vol. 9, No. 1

Col. James D. Rendleman, USAF (Ret.), is Chief, Operations Law for the US Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space. Over the past 35 years, he has served in a wide variety of science and technology, engineering, management, policy, and international affairs positions within the national security space community, Air Force laboratories, and the Air Staff. An attorney and member of the State Bar of California, Mr. Rendleman engaged in law practice as a partner, solo practitioner, and associate with firms in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Napa, California. He is the chair of the American Institute of Aeronautics & Astronautics’ (AIAA) legal technical committee, a member of the AIAA international activities, public policy, and ethics committees, and an elected member of the International Institute of Space Law. J. Walter Faulconer is President, Strategic Space Solutions, LLC. He has spent more than three decades in the aerospace industry providing executive leadership, creative program management, systems engineering, and business development to civilian, commercial, and national security space customers. Mr. Faulconer is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, a member of the board of directors for the American Astronautical Society (AAS), and a member of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) and National Space Society. 

Throughout the recent era of space systems, spacecraft acquisition programs have struggled. Saddled with nonexecutable technical, schedule, and cost baselines, floundering programs become incredible resource “black holes” as problems spin out of control.1 These problems are endemic. For example, nine of the ten largest NASA projects in an implementation phase suffered cost increases ranging from 8 to 68 percent, and launch delays of 8 to 33 months. These projects incurred an average development cost growth of almost $121 million and average schedule stretch of 15 months.2 This phenomenon is not limited to US government space; commercial and international acquisition efforts confront the same failures. The financial and intellectual resources used to shore up these programs are diverted from agencies that could better use them to field exciting new space exploration systems, sustain a struggling US aeronautics and astronautics industrial base, and support important science and technology research to keep the United States globally competitive.

These acquisition failures occur because programs get trapped into what could be characterized as “death spirals,” a rapid compounding of external influences, systems engineering, process, and management failures. These factors drive the program to failure, as depicted graphically in Figure 1.

The archetype for a program that has suffered a death spiral is the Future Imagery Architecture (FIA) program. FIA was begun in the 1990s without enough money or resources. Proposed technology readiness levels (TRLs) were woefully underestimated. Then, hobbled by an unhealthy dose of management groupthink, cost estimators and systems engineers did not step forward to shout out warnings. The errors committed by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) on FIA are now the stuff of legend. The NRO did not award the program to a contractor well versed in the real problems of the mission, its technology needs, and developmental challenges. Instead, it awarded it to a bidder with little to no experience in the mission. With its eye-popping cost overruns and grossly overoptimistic engineering objectives, FIA is now described as “perhaps the most spectacular and expensive failure in the 50-year history of American spy satellite projects.”3 In 2005, FIA was partially cancelled and dramatically restructured by an aggressive new program manager who recognized its failures and had the power to move quickly to stem the losses.

The Air Force’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) acquisition has suffered its own ongoing share of disappointments. It was begun in the 1990s by the US Air Force as an effort to update and replace the Defense Support Program (DSP) missile launch detection and warning system. Flight software failed testing, and ground support equipment experienced problems. The massive hardware and software shortfalls generated budget and schedule failures. The compounding problems served as an impetus to restructure the program multiple times.4 Although several SBIRS-system payloads have been successfully launched as hosted payloads on other classified spacecraft, the balance of the program limps along: the May 7, 2011, launch of its first geosynchronous satellite occurred a decade after initially planned.

Alas, both FIA and SBIRS might have been fixed earlier with aggressive management decisions on their technologies and program architecture. Both programs struggled even after the problems were recognized and addressed. Yet FIA was eventually cancelled. It remains to be seen whether SBIRS will deliver a successful on-orbit constellation, and what the ultimate price tag will be. Sadly, given the time to deploy the system, it expensively delivers capabilities based on decades-old late 1980/early 1990 technologies—capabilities surpassed in the intervening decades by new and innovative approaches.

Shouldn’t the space community know better after more than a half century of engineering, launching, and operating space systems? Perhaps so, but attributes of the FIA and SBIRS super-failures can be seen in more recent disasters such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST, originally $1 billion, now more than $8 billion); the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL, $800 million, now much more than $2 billion); and National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS, $6.5 billion, then $12.5 billion, then cancelled, and follow-on Defense Weather Satellite (DWS) cancelled); and other programs.

Warning Signs of Impending Program Failure

Failure to heed indicators of compounding problems risks crushing technical failures, out-of-control costs, and eventual cancellation. Time and time again, certain factors have been shown to devastate space acquisition efforts, especially in a constrained environment with so little room for error. Program managers must, therefore, be prepared to detect these distinct warning signs, and take immediate action to confront them. They include:

  • failed systems engineering;
  • unrealistic, incomplete, or volatile funding;
  • unreasonably pushing the technology envelope with unstable requirements;
  • overly optimistic cost and schedule planning estimates;
  • launch vehicle selection driving program complexity—“it’s the flight rate, stupid!”; and
  • unreasonable “sunk cost” arguments.

Failed systems engineering. Systems engineering efforts are often not valued by management, even though that function is nearly always vital to program success, and despite the fact that systems engineering is a new and growing specialty. It is all too easy for managers to just send their systems engineers to program meetings to take action items rather than to lead challenges to every requirement, assumption, constraint, ground rule, and the like, or provide real trade-off and cost/benefit analyses. Systems engineers must be allowed to perform these essential functions. Unfortunately, many acquisition managers have learned that their most valued functions are often to win the deal, show corporate leadership, or just manage the customer, and often are not wise enough to engage quality systems engineers as a foundation to the program’s engineering. Without effective systems engineering, it is all too easy to fall into a trap of making changes to a technical baseline, describing such moves in comforting terms such as improvements, taken in the name of providing system flexibility. Such changes have the unfortunate potential to disrupt and cripple programs by imposing huge cost penalties.

Unrealistic, incomplete, or volatile funding. Large flagship spacecraft programs are not easily funded, and competitions to build and operate them are not easily won. Government sponsors of these programs often “underestimate costs and over-promise capability, and [create] a host of negative incentives and pressures” in order to win approval for their efforts.5 These sponsors often try to leverage separate interests by inserting new requirements into related, large program baselines to secure funding for them. As a result, demands or suggestions to change requirements on large systems tend to grow over the life of a long-duration program. The combined requirements levied for these associated programs are often substantial, difficult to satisfy, and overwhelming to the winning contractor selected to build the end system.

Several negative consequences arise from this:

  • Because programs are funded annually and priorities have not been established, competition for funding continues over time, forcing programs to view success as the ability to secure the next installment rather than the end goal of delivering capabilities when and as promised.
  • Concurrently, when faced with lower budgets, senior executives within the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Air Force would rather make across-the-board cuts to all space programs than hard decisions as to which ones to keep and which ones to cancel or cut back.
Having to continually “sell” a program creates incentives to suppress bad news about a program’s status and avoid activities that uncover bad news.
  • When combined with the high cost of launching demonstrators into space, the competition for funding often encourages programs to avoid testing technologies in space before acquisition programs are started.6

Unreasonably pushing the technology envelope with unstable requirements. Acquisition failures usually begin with overly optimistic technical readiness and resource estimates. Programmatic architectures and the technology readiness levels (TRLs) needed to secure important objectives are left incomplete and woefully inadequate. Without proper TRLs, or sufficient on- or off-ramps to add or delete technologies inserted into a program, the program’s baseline can easily become unexecutable. Such improperly baselined and resourced acquisitions cannot achieve success—hamstringing even the best people and program offices. In addition, allowing overinflated TRL levels and lowball program bids discourages industry from becoming more efficient.

Of course, some argue that space acquisition efforts should be leading-edge activities, pushing the proverbial technology “envelope.” These optimists argue that TRLs can be lower, and the latest and very best just-in-time technologies used. Unfortunately, planning acquisitions with overly ambitious TRLs or imagined technologies without adequate on- or off-ramps often devastates the engineering of complex space systems, as demonstrated by the SBIRS and doomed FIA efforts. Current spending problems are directly “attributable to programs starting before they have assurance that capabilities being pursued can be achieved within available resources and time constraints.”7

As noted, competition for the funding of new programs is intense. Program sponsors and managers want to make their system stand out compared to existing or alternative systems. Funding constraints place a high priority on making a program appear affordable. These limitations generate incredible pressures, forcing government and contractor managers to propose using exotic leap-ahead technologies as a solution. This can lead to programmatic disaster. “Instead of forcing trade-offs, challenging performance requirements—when coupled with other constraints, such as cost or the weight of the satellite—can drive product developers to pursue exotic solutions and technologies that, in theory, can do it all.”8 Such was the case with the failed FIA acquisition.

The need and desire to stand apart from the crowd has shackled the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) program. The NASA Mars Exploration Program (MEP) advertised MSL as “the most challenging planetary mission that’s ever been flown . . . pushing the envelope in a number of areas, and it just kind of built up.”9 Indeed, the NASA Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, were designed to look only for water. In contrast, the MSL program team has undertaken a Herculean task—developing a system that can search for the molecules considered to be precursors to life and for evidence of microbes at work. These mission requirements demand a large machine that relies on nuclear power, rather than what the first rovers used—solar panels. In addition, the MSL will carry a full chemistry workshop and a robotic drill arm for gathering rock samples.10 All of this is terribly challenging and has created intractable frustrations. Even NASA concedes the point, that it “underestimated what it was going to take.”11

Overly optimistic cost and schedule planning estimates. Failed by its Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) support, and confronted by political and institutional pressures, DoD cost estimates for space systems are consistently optimistic. Confirming this observation, the GAO concludes that these problems are rooted in “the failure to match the customer’s needs with the developer’s resources—technical knowledge, timing, and funding—when starting product development. In other words, commitments were made to achieving certain capabilities without knowing whether technologies and/or designs being pursued could really work as intended. Time and costs were consistently underestimated.”12

In another scathing GAO analysis, space program cost estimates were found to be unreliable, largely because requirements were not being fully defined and programs start with too many unknowns about technologies.13 Similarly, RAND observes, significant cost estimating problems have arisen out of programs that have become more sophisticated and complex because new cost and technical data are not being collected and the cost estimating models are becoming obsolete.14

Nearly all space professionals have worked on one or more programs that have habitually slipped their schedules. The authors worked together on one program that was four years from launch when they started. Yet, when they left the program, years later, a launch was scheduled to occur more than four years later. Acceptance of delay and problems, however, is a luxury the space community is fast losing. Further, as a devastating counterintuitive consequence of optimistic planning, spacecraft and constellations developed under these pressures are often out-of-date even before their first launch. So, even as it is just being deployed, SBIRS technologies are already decades too old. There are other consequences to this as noted by Paul Brooks, director, Earth Observation & Science, Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), in his critique:

When a satellite is being designed the owners look for ways to extend its mission. The designers then put more payloads on the spacecraft to deliver more value, but then the cost goes up. . . . This creates more financial risk which then requires greater assurance that everything will work as planned. The greater assurance lengthens the lead time. You ultimately end up with very large missions and by the time the payload is launched, it is out of date. We noticed that this pattern repeated itself in the satellite industry and, unlike other technology-driven markets, there weren’t huge increases in performance and large decreases in cost. We believe that Moore’s Law should apply to spacecraft as well.15

Launch vehicle selection driving program complexity—“it’s the flight rate, stupid!” Spacelift is very expensive, despite the dreams and longing of program managers and science fiction buffs. The costs of sustaining a standing army and fixed infrastructure at launch sites are substantial. There are also costs associated with purchasing propellants and other expendables needed to safely lift systems to orbit. These always will be substantial given the chemistry involved with rocket propellants. Fabrication of launch vehicles also is a complex task, where even small errors can cause catastrophic failure. This demands rigorous engineering discipline and time.

Some argue these expenses could be amortized over a large number of space launches to achieve economies of scale. But that only can happen, if at all, when there is a need for many launches. Even though the false prophets for regular and ready access to space would wish differently, there is no such need.

Unreasonable “sunk cost” arguments. Managers should be especially wary of “sunk cost” arguments as reasons to continue their programs. When the International Space Station (ISS) was completed in 2011, total investment in the system exceeded $125 billion. The Bush Administration’s Vision for Space Exploration had outlined using the ISS for five years after its completion as a test bed for exploration and then allowing the program to come to an end. However, that changed after the Augustine Committee argued that such an investment in ISS shouldn’t be wasted. Partner nations in the ISS have endorsed the idea of continuing the program. If the recommendations are fully implemented, operations for the ISS will continue until 2020 and beyond, instead of the five years originally planned. The problem is that to maintain and operate the ISS costs the United States approximately $3 billion per year. Over 10 years, that will amount to $30 billion out of the NASA budget not available for use on other more important scientific space activities.

Escape From the Death Spiral—Performing Triage on Failing Programs

US government responses to the space acquisition problem are trending in the wrong direction. Recent changes to DoD Instruction 5000.2, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, add more nonvalue-added program reviews, and dilute the abilities of managers to manage and make decisions on their programs.16 The assumption that the newly renamed US Air Force ESP (Efficient Space Procurement) initiative—originally named EASE (short for Evolutionary Acquisition for Space Efficiency) and rechristened after Congress did not support EASE—is the solution to space acquisition woes is plainly naïve.17 Although ESP’s proposed block buys and advanced appropriations should help reduce costs, ESP will not conjure better ways to address fundamental systems engineering issues: inadequate resourcing, poorly baselined programs, unwieldy/nonvalue-added reviews, inability of program managers and directors to make simple decisions, inadequate program office staffing, and failures that managers confront in the development portions of their programs.

Space programs now suffer innumerable and exasperating material failures (parts, subsystems and subassemblies, batteries, solar panels, out-gassing materials, etc.). This is due to a collapse of the US space industrial base, funding instability, and from marginal accountability for poor performance by hardware providers. Yet there is excessive oversight on tangential issues, as demonstrated by the 243 “shalls” in the NASA Authorization Bill—only 15 of which have to do with funding.18 The Vision for Space Exploration was planned to accomplish an important national mission, but it has devolved into an initiative designed to just protect “jobs.” All of these examples are symptomatic of a government failing to act and think strategically.

So what should a manager do if confronted by a space system program that is failing? There are precious few examples of how best to right a failing program. Employing massive infusions of dollars, manpower, and other resources, together with schedule relief, has been the typical way managers respond.

In these lean budget times, managers must be prepared to respond rapidly and effectively upon detecting a programmatic warning sign. Immediate triage is a must if the manager wants to escape the death spiral. According to Thomas “Tav” Taverney,

There aren’t many people who can actually manage turn-arounds. And there isn’t an easy common rescue formula, because failing space programs all seem to have very different reasons for their problems. The approaches needed range from just containing the risk to public hangings (what General George Washington did to keep his Army together at Valley Forge). Getting to the issues and establishing leadership are the key first step. And if the program is in free-fall, there isn’t much time, so you can’t just spend all your time trying to observe and figure out what’s going wrong and what needs to be fixed. That would be like replacing your fan belts in the middle of the Indy 500.19

In applying triage, a manager must execute four basic problem-solving steps:

  • Observe—Assess and observe the realities of the organizational, technology, and schedule problems.
  • Orient—Orient the program to confront the problems.
  • Decide—Develop, analyze, and select options.
  • Act—Ensure the manager is empowered to bring resources to bear on the problems, and implement the selected solutions to get the program back on track.

Military and business professionals no doubt recognize that the observe-orient-decide-act, or OODA loop, is a decision-making concept originally applied to air combat, then to business management (often at the strategic level). The late Air Force Colonel John Boyd, developer of the concept, discerned that decision making occurs in a repetitive observe-orient-decide-act cycle. If one can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, he or she can “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain an advantage, or respond effectively to management issues.20

First, the manager must initially assess and observe the realities of the organizational, technology, and schedule problems. Whether it takes a week or a month, he or she must get fully immersed in the technical aspects of whatever is going on, and into technical aspects of what is being built. The manager must identify the causes of program failures: people, technology readiness, systems and software, engineering, manufacturing, resources, optimistic planning and schedules, industrial base, and the like. He or she should direct an end-to-end systems and software assessment of the program to better understand its programmatic risk and the status of available technologies. The current status of system and subsystem technology readiness levels should also be ascertained, and the manager must develop realistic funding profiles for the program, as inherited or confronted.

Second, the program must be oriented to confront the problems. The manager must clean up the program organization and orient the team for success. He or she must form or reform the solid foundations of the program, and find and fix the resources available to respond to the problems. The program must be oriented to address the causes of the warning signs of failure that the manager observes.

Third, options must be developed, analyzed, and selected. Options for saving a program are best developed after ascertaining “honest” mission requirements and preparing a realistic analysis of options for a way ahead. Adding more money and schedule is usually not the best solution to a program’s problems. Managers should attempt to develop options that can deliver the hardware, software and mission within the time and budget remaining, but satisfying a smaller set of the requirements that achieve the desired mission objectives. If no path can be found to meet schedule constraints, even with reduced requirements, then the manager should look at options to rebaseline the schedule. Options that increase costs should be considered only as a last resort.

Finally, once options have been selected, the program manager must be empowered to act, bring resources to bear on the program’s problems, and get it back on track. The manager must take immediate triage steps to stop the bleeding and loss of resources for each failed element of the programmatic death spiral. If the program cannot be salvaged, the manager must immediately cut losses and move to restart. Regardless of the option selected, the program manager must be given an authority to act matching his or her accountability. If the manager is required, however, to endure multiple reviews for each and every decision, the program will likely fail despite the manager’s best efforts. Any course of action selected to correct the program’s problems no doubt will need some midcourse corrections; accordingly the manager must be empowered to exercise the agility necessary to direct these steps.

The objective of these four triage steps is to return the program to a point where it can be effectively managed using time-tested practices for program management. These practices were described by Taverney and Rendleman in their 2009 High Frontier article on “Ten Rules for Common Sense Space Acquisition.”21

The Kepler Mission Recovery Success

The observe-orient-decide-act triage steps were applied successfully to recover NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s planet-hunting Kepler spacecraft mission and get the spacecraft launched without a new infusion of cash. As a result of the triage, the mission has been a terrific success, trumpeting a treasure-trove of planetary observations.

The Kepler spacecraft employs a 0.95-meter Schmidt telescope optimized to scan star fields for signs of potentially habitable Earth-size planets. Unfortunately, due to a combination of factors, including management problems, technical challenges, and budget fluctuations beyond the project’s control, the price tag for the mission rose several times since its 2001 selection. In mid-2006, NASA accepted a 21 percent cost increase for construction of the telescope, pushing the total cost of the mission above $550 million. The launch date also slipped. Then, in the spring of 2007, the Kepler mission team—which included Ball Aerospace & Technology, Ames Research Center, and the venerable Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)—told NASA science chief Alan Stern it needed an additional $42 million and an extra four months to finish the spacecraft.22

Observing a festering problem, Stern’s response was: “No, [the Science Mission Directorate] no longer manages by open checkbook. You need to find a way to get it back in the box because I don’t have $42 million in the astrophysics program anyway.”23 He told the team to come back with a plan for getting the job done within the revised budget NASA had approved for Kepler the previous year.24

The team came back with a request for $54 million instead of $42 million, at which point Stern said, “Apparently you don’t think I’m serious. . . . If you don’t think I’m serious just come back to me with numbers like these again and that will be the end of the project.”25 He already had made clear the program was all but canceled, and that was before the Kepler team responded to his call to cut costs by asking for even more money. After rejecting their request for the $54 million, Stern gave the team a month to reorient itself and take another stab at putting their program “back in the box.”26

When the Kepler team returned to NASA headquarters, it had taken Stern’s threats very seriously and had decided on necessary changes. The team proposed staying within the budget by cutting six months off the end of the four-year mission, scaling back spacecraft testing, reducing schedule reserve, and making management changes. In addition, Ball, the firm building the spacecraft and instrument, gave up millions of dollars in earned fees. Under the change, the mission missed its launch target only by a few months, which satisfied Stern.27 “The only thing more important than keeping Kepler marching towards launch is to have responsible management in the Science Mission Directorate,” he said. “I won’t write checks any more. There’s a new team in town and we don’t work that way.”28

Although reducing testing and cutting schedule reserves could generate problems, Stern believed the reductions were responsible and would not increase the mission’s risk. According to Stern, “They [also] had very lavish schedule reserves by normal industry standards. They elected to cut themselves back to JPL standards.”29

The new plan also streamlined Kepler’s “convoluted” management structure, which had been a significant contributor to its systems acquisition woes. Initially, when NASA selected Kepler for funding, the agency required Ames Research Center to pick either JPL or Goddard Space Flight Center to help run the project. With JPL added to the mix, Kepler essentially had three bosses: the JPL project manager, the Ames project manager, and a rookie Ames principal investigator.

Streamlining the management structure simplified the program. NASA acted to put the entire Kepler team under the direction of a seasoned JPL project manager and engineer who had worked on Mars Pathfinder, was the flight system manager for Deep Space 1, and ran Starlight before that ambitious three-telescope project was reduced to a ground-based technology demonstration. According to Stern, the program “had to make some tough choices and it takes a professional program manager and not a rookie PI to do this.” The principle investigator was retained to take charge of the entire science investigation.30

The Role of Attorneys

For the space industry, avoiding acquisition problems has all become a bit of a Gordian knot.31 The US space program needs its own Alexanders to cut through the Gordian knots of space acquisition, decisively help redefine significant programmatic challenges, and to cut through the challenges to new solutions. Ultimately, failure to call out and confront programmatic technical problems and cost growth challenges will limit the success of the whole space community in the twenty-first century. Technical problems can be solved and obstacles avoided, but this demands smart systems engineering, scientific and technical insight, crafty resource administration, and wise program management. Attorneys are a key part of this effort.

Just as Alexander was propelled to greatness assisted by smart and devoted generals and a powerful military, attorneys can help propel their clients to success in space acquisition. Lawful approaches must be employed to match resources to requirements. An attorney must provide wise counsel as the manager fights off attempts to unhinge effective systems engineering efforts. The attorney must help the manager balance and address a wide variety of debilitating factors, such as: the diverse arrays of competing interests; the desire to satisfy all requirements in a single step, regardless of the technology challenges; the tendency for acquisition programs to undertake technology development that should occur within the science and technology environment; cascading effects as older programs are extended or overrun; and the government starting more programs than it can afford in the long run, forcing programs to underestimate costs and overpromise capability. Each of these factors must be confronted and resolved to achieve future success. Most importantly, attorneys can craft the legal instruments that allow a program manager to effectively perform triage and escape a programmatic death spiral. u


1. This article is an abridged and revised version of the authors’ three-part article published as Escaping the Space Acquisition Death Spiral, High Frontier, Aug. 2011.

2. NASA: Assessments of Selected Large-Scale Projects, GAO-09-306SP, Mar. 2009. Each project the GAO assessed “was in either the formulation phase or the implementation phase of the project life-cycle. In the formulation phase, the project develops and defines the project requirements—what the project should be able to do—establishes a schedule, estimates costs and produces a plan for implementation. In the implementation phase, the project carries out these plans, performing final design and fabrication as well as testing components and system assembly, integrating these components and testing how they work together, and launching the project. This phase also includes the period from project launch through mission completion” (emphasis added). Id. at 4.

3. Philip Taubman, In Death of Spy Satellite Program, Lofty Plans and Unrealistic Bids, N.Y. Times (, Nov. 11, 2007.

4. Cristina T. Chaplain, Space Acquisitions: DoD’s Goals for Resolving Space Based Infrared System Software Problems Are Ambitious, GAO-08-1073, Sept. 30, 2008, retrieved on July 2, 2009 (

5. Space Acquisitions: Stronger Development Practices and Investment Planning Needed to Address Continuing Problems, GAO-05-891T, July 12, 2005, at 5.

6. Id. at 9.

7. Id. at 8.

8. Id.

9. Traci Watson, Troubles Parallel Ambitions in NASA Mars Project, USA Today, Apr. 14, 2008,, citing Doug McCuistion, Head of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program (MEP).

10. Id.

11. Id., citing Project Manager Richard Cook, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

12. NASA: Projects Need More Discipline, Oversight and Management to Address Key Challenges, GAO-09-436T, Mar. 5, 2009, at 5.

13. Space Acquisitions: Stronger Development Practices . . . , GAO-05-891T, supra note 5.

14. Obaid Younossi, Mark A. Lorell, Kevin Brancato, Cynthia R. Cook, Mel Eisman, Bernard Fox, John C. Graser, Yool Kim, Robert S. Leonard, Shari Lawrence Pleeger, & Jerry Sollinger, Improving the Cost Estimation of Space Systems: Past Lessons and Future Recommendations, RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, Cal., 2008, at 96.

15. Greg Berlocher, Small Satellite Technology: Gains Open Space to More Players, Via Satellite, Aug. 1, 2008,, accessed Jan. 24, 2010. According to Webopedia, the observation was made in 1965 by Gordon Moore, cofounder of Intel, that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since the integrated circuit was invented. “Moore predicted this trend would continue for the foreseeable future. In subsequent years, the pace slowed down a bit, but data density has doubled approximately every 18 months, and this is the current definition of Moore’s Law, which Moore himself has blessed. Most experts, including Moore himself, expect Moore’s Law to hold for at least another two decades.” See “Moore’s Law,”

16. DoDI 5000.02, Operation of the Defense Acquisition System, Dec. 8, 2008.

17. See Amy McCullough, Space Acquisition with EASE, Air Force Mag., Feb. 16, 2011,, accessed Mar. 1, 2011; Marcia S. Smith, Air Force Requests $9.6 Billion for Space in FY2013; EASE Becomes ESP, Space Policy Online, Feb. 28, 2012,

18. Eric Sterner, The Marshall Institute, Symposium on Aligning Policies and Interests, Space Policy Institute, June 2, 2009.

19. Major General Taverney (USAF, Ret.) is former Vice Commander, Air Force Space Command. A member of the Space Operations Hall of Fame, he is recognized for helping rescue several classified and unclassified programs during his career.

20. Colonel Boyd is said to have never written a book on military strategy. His theories on warfare can be found in a lengthy slide presentation entitled Discourse on Winning & Losing and several essays. See also Robert Coram, Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War, Little, Brown & Company (2002).

21. See Thomas D. Taverney & James D. Rendleman, Ten Rules for Common Sense Space Acquisition, 6 High Frontier 1, Nov. 2009, at 53–65.

22. Brian Berger, Kepler Team Cuts Cost, Avoids Cancellation, Space News, July 16, 2007,, accessed May 9, 2011.

23. Id.

24. Id.

25. Id.

26. Id.

27. Id.

28. Id.

29. Id.

30. Id.

31. A very difficult problem, insoluble in its own terms.


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