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(EST-3823) Cost and Throughput Analysis for the NASA Ames Arc Jet Modernization Program

Level: Intermediate
TCM Section(s):
7.3. Cost Estimating and Budgeting
Venue: 2022 AACE International Conference & Expo

Abstract: NASA Ames Center is currently evaluating alternatives to modernize the Arc Jet Complex, a critical part of testing for NASA’s planetary missions. NASA’s Arc Jet Complex facilities “are used to simulate the aerothermodynamic heating that a spacecraft endures throughout hypersonic atmospheric entry, and to test candidate thermal protection system (TPS) materials and systems.” Because planetary mission schedules often have tight windows due to planetary alignment constraints, a small increase in schedule could result in a two-year delay. Such a delay could increase the cost of a $1 billion mission by hundreds of millions of dollars due to project personnel pay and clean room storage. To avoid these costs, the authors support NASA Ames in evaluating return on investment (ROI) and effectiveness of alternatives for modernizing the complex. The first input into the ROI is the deconstruction and construction cost estimates, which are developed using independent research on highly specialized subsystems, vendor quotes, and Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC), depending on the facility and work package. One of the measures of effectiveness is throughput analysis of the test bays, as a main goal of the modernization is to increase the number of possible test runs per year. This analysis is conducted via a probabilistic simulation and accounts for a variety of stochastic factors that influence the sequence of test runs, such as the facility availability; test complexity; the need to pause to assess test results; test failure; and the possibility of a system failure. The methodologies for both these analyses are discussed, along with the challenges presented due to the unique nature of the highly specialized test equipment.