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NPR 7120.8A
Effective Date: September 14, 2018
Expiration Date: September 14, 2028
Printable Format (PDF)

Subject: NASA Research and Technology Program and Project Management Requirements (Revalidated w/change 5)

Responsible Office: Associate Administrator

| TOC | ChangeLog | Preface | Chapter1 | Chapter2 | Chapter3 | Chapter4 | Chapter5 | AppendixA | AppendixB | AppendixC | AppendixD | AppendixE | AppendixF | AppendixG | AppendixH | AppendixI | AppendixJ | AppendixK | AppendixL | AppendixM | ALL |

Chapter 2. NASA Life Cycles for Managing Research and Technology

2.1 Governance

2.1.1 The fundamental principles of NASA governance are defined in NPD 1000.0. The governance model prescribes a management structure that employs checks and balances among key organizations to ensure that decisions have the benefit of different points of view and are not made in isolation. This structure is made up of two authorities: Programmatic and Institutional. Programmatic Authority consists of the Mission Directorates and their respective programs and projects. The Institutional Authority consists of those organizations not in the Programmatic Authority and includes the Technical Authorities (refer to section 5.4). For further description of Programmatic and Institutional Authority, see NASA/SP-20220009501, NASA Space Flight Program and Project Management Handbook, which can be found on the "Other Policy Documents" tab in NODIS under the Office of the Chief Engineer (OCE) menu item.

2.1.2 R&T management policy follows a different philosophy than NPR 7120.5, which compiles a comprehensive set of requirements for space flight that may need to be tailored down for smaller efforts that are not crewed. This directive applies the principle of a minimum set of essential requirements and maximum flexibility for research and technology development programs and projects. Rather than tailoring down from the directive's requirements, R&T projects may need to pull in additional requirements from NPR 7120.5 for more robust or structured project management, particularly on larger projects or projects that may transition to flight. Further details can be found in Section 5.6, Principles Related to Tailoring Requirements.

2.2 Research and Technology (R&T) Programs

2.2.1 A program is a strategic investment by a Mission Directorate that has a technical approach, requirements, funding level, and management structure that initiates and directs one or more projects. The Office of Chief Financial Officer (OCFO) is responsible for the official listing of NASA programs and projects.1 A program defines a strategic direction that the Agency has identified as needed to accomplish Agency goals and objectives. An R&T program accomplishes Agency goals and objectives by managing projects that directly address NASA's R&T investment strategy and portfolio goals. Programs are usually long-term commitments by the Agency with a common focus. Programs follow a specific life cycle with periodic program reviews and the cyclical starts and stops of projects. Agency-level organizations such as the Office of the Administrator, OCE, OCFO, and the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance (OSMA) track, monitor, and assess the health and success of Agency programs.

1 This data is maintained by OCFO in a database called the Meta-Data Manager (MdM). This database is the basis for the Agency's work breakdown and forms the structure for program and project status reporting across all Mission Directorates and Mission Support Offices.

2.2.2 This NPR applies only to R&T programs and projects. R&T programs comprise Technology Development (TD) projects and/or Research projects. (Section 2.3 provides details on TD projects and Research projects.) R&T program management requirements are defined in Chapter 3 of this document.

2.3 Research and Technology Projects

2.3.1 A project is a specific investment identified in a Program Plan, that has defined goals and/or requirements, a life-cycle cost, a beginning, and an end. Projects may consist of single or multiple related technology or research efforts. A project yields new or revised products that directly address NASA's strategic needs. This NPR is applicable only to R&T programs and projects, which can be either technology development or research projects as described below. Technology Development (TD) projects. TD projects characterize or enhance performance and mature a technology or set of related technologies. These projects attempt to solve a specific problem or address a practical need. They advance investigations, experiments, and prototyping to higher level of maturity. This should typically be a point at which a decision to continue into a new project task or cease investment can be made based on performance. The most mature R&T projects advance to the point where the technology is at its final pre-production version, and where the prototype design has been fully developed, tested, and verified. TD projects typically focus their activities on fully establishing their approach and techniques; answering all pertinent questions on the theory or hypothesis; developing the simulations, prototypes, and models that demonstrate the capability; and testing, verifying, and validating the capability with the intended customer or beneficiary. These activities reduce the risk associated with the new technology to the point where it is ready for use by a customer or beneficiary. Usually, TD projects have an identified or targeted beneficiary who is the intended user of the technology being developed and who is involved throughout the development process. Research projects. Research projects perform either basic research or applied research. Basic research addresses the need for knowledge through investigation of fundamental principles and interactions. In the early stages, it may take the form of theory development, or scientific and/or technical investigations as to the feasibility of an idea. The activity at this stage is generally driven by a principal investigator. As the basic research evolves, hypotheses may be formed, or scientific testing may proceed to evaluate the theories. Research papers, presentations or articles are the typical outcomes of this phase. For applied research, once an idea is defined enough to start thinking about practical application, single prototypes can be designed and tested, or a simulation or model developed to demonstrate the potential of the research. Basic and applied research is directly tied to the Agency's vision and mission, as defined by NPD 1001.0, NASA Strategic Plan. The results of this basic or applied research may provide fundamental discoveries, expand the knowledge base, provide scientific and technological breakthroughs that are immediately applicable, or evolve into more advanced technology development. Research projects are characterized by unpredictability of outcome. Funding may be at a fixed level on a yearly basis.

2.4 Strategic Acquisition Planning

2.4.1 NASA's program and project support of its overall mission is long term in nature, but the environments in which these programs and projects are conducted are dynamic. In recognition of this, NPD 1000.0 and NPD 1000.5 put in place a framework for ensuring that NASA's programs, projects, and resources align with NASA's long-term strategic vision. At NASA, the annual strategic resource planning forms a continuous process all the way through to acquisition and procurement to ensure this alignment. NPD 1000.5 details this process. At the program and project level, the Acquisition Strategy Meeting (ASM) and the Procurement Strategy Meeting (PSM) support the Agency's acquisition process, which includes strategic planning, as well as procurement. Links to the ASM guide and pre-ASM guide are found at the top of the first page of NPD 1000.5 in NODIS. The ASM is in NASA FAR Supplement (NFS), Part 1807.170. The PSM guide is found at https://nasa.sharepoint.com/sites/procurement/Shared%20Documents/NASA%20PSM%20Guide.pdf. When determined applicable, these strategic acquisition events are part of the normal program and project formulation and implementation activities described in sections 2.5 and 2.6 and the remaining chapters of this NPR.

2.5 R&T Program and Project Oversight

2.5.1 Each program and project has a governing Program Management Council (PMC) that provides management oversight. To ensure the appropriate level of management oversight, NASA has established a hierarchy of PMCs—the Agency PMC (APMC) and Directorate PMC (DPMC). Each council has the responsibility of periodically evaluating the cost, schedule, risk, and performance of programs or projects under its purview. The evaluation focuses on whether the program or project is meeting its commitments to the Agency and is following appropriate management processes.

2.5.2 Oversight of programs and projects is also performed by a Center Management Council (CMC), which may evaluate all R&T work executed at that Center per the governance model in NPD 1000.0. The CMC evaluation is an additional assessment that focuses on whether Center engineering, research, and management practices (e.g., resources, contracting, institutional, and technical authority) are being followed by the R&T work under review and whether Center resources can support R&T work requirements. The evaluation should also focus on the technical authority role (see Section 5.4) of the Center to ensure technical and scientific integrity of work conducted at that Center. A CMC provides its findings and recommendations to the governing PMC.

2.5.3 In addition to the management councils, each program and project has a DA, the individual authorized by the Agency to make important decisions on programs and projects to which they are assigned authority. Chapter 3 contains more detail on authories for programs and Chapter 4 for projects.

2.6 R&T Program and Project Reviews

2.6.1 Program and project maturity and performance are periodically reviewed by upper management. Three basic types of reviews are applicable to programs and projects: internal reviews, KDPs, and independent assessments (IAs). These reviews also apply to competed projects. (Sections to provide more detail.) Programs and projects document their approach to conducting all program/project reviews in their Program and Project Plans. In addition, special reviews may be needed on an ad hoc basis internally or by external entities such as termination reviews or special independent reviews for specific purposes. Reviews should be scaled as appropriate for the size and complexity of the program/project, including delegations of responsibility. Programs and projects should continuously capture and document lessons learned throughout the life cycle in accordance with NPD 7120.4, NASA Engineering and Program/Project Management Policy and as described in NPD 7120.6, Knowledge Policy for Program and Projects and other appropriate requirements and standards documentation. Internal Reviews. Program and project managers conduct internal program and project reviews as essential elements of conducting, managing, evaluating, and approving programs and projects. These reviews help to establish and manage the progress against plans. These internal reviews are called Program Status Reviews (PSRs) for programs and Periodic Project Reviews (PPRs) for projects. More detail on PSRs and PPRs can be found in Sections 3.2.7 and 4.2.10, respectively. Key Decision Points. KDPs are decisional reviews that serve as gates through which programs and projects need to pass to continue through their life cycle. The program or project DA conducts the KDPs. The DA may delegate, as appropriate, based on the size and complexity of the program or project. For more detail on KDPs see Chapter 3 for programs and Chapter 4 for projects. To support the decision process, a KDP is typically preceded by one or more internal reviews and may include inputs from independent assessments. As appropriate for the size and complexity of the program or project, KDP membership may vary from a single DA to a more formal KDP board that includes other stakeholders and NASA Headquarters personnel. The DA shall approve decisions made at KDPs which are summarized and recorded in the decision documentation (e.g., memorandum or other appropriate format) that will become part of the retrievable program or project documentation. The decision documentation should include the decision made, rationale, effective date, and any actions associated with the decision (including responsible parties and due dates). Materials required to support KDPs are designated by the DA. Dissenting opinions are resolved through the Formal Dissent Process in accordance with the process described in Section 5.3. These decisional reviews are called Program Assessment Reviews (PARs) for programs and Continuation Assessments (CAs) for projects. More detail on PARs and CAs can be found in Sections and, respectively The potential outcomes at a KDP include:

a. Approval to continue through the life cycle.

b. Approval to continue through the life cycle, pending resolution of actions.

c. Disapproval to continue through the life cycle, with followup actions required (including descope actions). In such cases, followup actions are documented and the KDP is redone after the followup actions are completed.

d. Disapproval to continue the life cycle, with a decision to terminate. Independent Assessments. The appointed Independent Assessment (IA) team shall conduct Independent Assessments during the program and project life cycles. The timing and frequency of the assessments are planned by the program or project manager with the approval of the Mission Directorate Associate Administrator (MDAA) and documented in retrievable program or project documents. The MDAA ensures the IAs are conducted in accordance with documented review expectations, e.g., charter or Terms of Reference (ToR). They are conducted periodically, typically prior to or concurrent with KDPs, particularly at the Program and Project Approval and Closeout KDPs. Findings and recommendations from the IA team and any responses from the program or project manager are provided to the DA to inform the KDP decision. The MDAA may utilize Center support to help manage and conduct IAs or may delegate this to the Center Director. The plan for the IA reviews is documented in the program or project Formulation Authorization Document (FAD) and Program or Project Plan. The plan should ensure the relevance, quality, and performance of the program or project.2

2 See NPR 1080.1 for additional guidance on assessments. IA Expectations Document. The MDAA (or designee) is responsible for the development and approval of the IA expectations document. The document may be in the form of a charter, ToR, or other document that describes the IA review expectations. For each program and project IA, the IA expectations document describes the process and team membership, how the program or project will support the IA, and the nature, scope, schedule, and ground rules. The IA expectations document is developed in coordination with the program/project management. Independent Assessment Team. The MDAA (or designee) is the management official for independent assessment teams. The MDAA identifies the chair of the IA team who then selects any team members. Approvals/concurrences are obtained from the Mission Directorate, implementing Centers and OCE for the (1) IA Chair, (2) IA team members, and (3) IA expectations document. The IA team membership and formality varies greatly depending upon the size and complexity of the program or project. Small projects may only need to appoint a single member to provide an independent assessment, whereas a large program or project may require a larger team, such as a Standing Review Board (SRB) with more formal processes.3 The MDAA will ensure that the IA team membership and process are independent and objective in accordance with the SRB Handbook (Section 3.2 in NASA Standing Review Board Handbook) and the "NASA Independent Assessment Principles and Approach" white paper.4

3 For additional information on SRBs, refer to NASA/SP-20230001306.
4 Approved at the APMC held on May 18, 2016, and documented in a Decision Memorandum signed on December 13, 2016. It can be found on the OCE menu under the "Other Policy Documents" tab in NODIS.

| TOC | ChangeLog | Preface | Chapter1 | Chapter2 | Chapter3 | Chapter4 | Chapter5 | AppendixA | AppendixB | AppendixC | AppendixD | AppendixE | AppendixF | AppendixG | AppendixH | AppendixI | AppendixJ | AppendixK | AppendixL | AppendixM | ALL |
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