NASA's Constellation Program: The final word


  • This is a US Government work, and, as such, is in the public domain in the United States of America.


NASA's Constellation Program, formulated in 2005 to achieve the objectives of maintaining American presence in low Earth orbit, returning to the Moon for purpose of establishing an outpost, and exploring Mars and beyond in the first half of the 21st century, was cancelled in 2010 [US Congress, NASA Authorization Act, Public Law 11-267, 2010]. This paper describes the lessons learned developed by the staff of the Constellation Program to advise future programs, as well as program and system engineering managers of similar national efforts. These lessons learned are offered by those who experienced the day-to-day challenges of managing an effort planned as a multidecade undertaking. This effort spanned all 10 NASA Centers, multiple large-scale acquisitions, and required modernizing an infrastructure designed and sized largely for the Apollo program in the 1960s. Moreover, it required leading a workforce generationally removed from the previous human spacecraft launch and entry development challenges. Key lessons learned from the Constellation Program are addressed and cover program elements in which systems engineers provide leadership and/or assistance to program management, including program planning, requirements development, system design methodology, management structure, decision-making, and communications in a national program. ©2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Syst Eng 16: