The space environment surrounding the Earth
and Sun is unforgivingly harsh on spacecraft. Rather than
being an empty vacuum, it is filled with a rain of high
energy particles and ionizing radiation from the Sun.
This hot plasma (or solar wind) is trapped and
concentrated into regions by the Earth's magnetic field.
Thermal waves and gradients exist in the upper atmosphere,
and small meteoroids occur naturally in the vicinity of
the Earth, along with an ongoing accumulation of man-made
debris from past and present spacecraft. This environment
can damage a spacecraft in a variety of ways, from the
direct impact of a meteoroid to the flipping of a single
bit of digital memory in a computer chip.
addition to effects caused by the natural space
environment, spacecraft can be affected by various forms
of molecular or particulate contamination, they can suffer
from electromagnetic interference effects between on-board
electronic components as well as from solar radiation, or
they can suffer power surges and shorts caused by the
build-up and release of static electric charges. The loss
of spacecraft costs the research and communications
industries hundreds of millions of dollars every year.
goal of the SEE Program was to collect, develop and
disseminate the space environment technologies that are
required to design, manufacture and operate reliable,
cost-effective spacecraft for the government and
commercial sectors that accommodate or mitigate these
effects of the space environment. Design guidelines that
stem from a thorough understanding of these effects will
reduce the need for costly retrofits and redesign work
when implemented early in the development process of a
spacecraft. This program will help the U.S. to maintain
preeminence in space and promote continued economic
competitiveness in the global marketplace.
The SEE Program was formally started in FY 1995
for Technology Development Activities. Initial research
proposals in the areas of engineering environmental
definitions, environments and effects design guidelines,
assessment models and databases, and flight/ground
simulation/technology assessment data were solicited
through a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) in May of 1994.
The response to this announcement resulted in the
submittal of 176 proposals for evaluation. The NRA
Selection Committee, utilizing a peer-review process
including non-governmental reviewers, recommended funding
18 of the proposals. Winning
proposals were assigned to various NASA centers based on
the recommendation of 7 Technical Working Groups. Each
working group consisted of a chairperson who recommended a
NASA center based on the expertise in that discipline.
Also, each center was responsible for the negotiation,
awarding, and monitoring of the resulting NASA contracts.
A NRA was released in July 1997. The response to this
announcement resulted in the submittal of 67 proposals for
evaluation. Utilizing the same peer review process, the
NRA Selection Committee recommended funding
12 of the proposals.
In July, 2001, the SEE Program released a NRA that
consisted of two solicitations: SEE Program and
Living With a Star (LWS): Space Environment TestBeds
(SET). The combined NRA and close working relationship of
the two programs ensured synergy and no duplication. The
response to this NRA resulted in the SEE Program
receiving 37 proposals and SET 15 proposals for evaluation
utilizing a similar peer review process as past
solicitations, the NRA selection committee recommended
funding 9 SEE Program proposals
and 8 SET Program proposals.
Current tools for implementing design provisions and
operational procedures for space environment effects
include: engineering environment definitions, design
guidelines, assessment models and databases, and
flight/ground simulation/technology assessment data.
To achieve its goal, the SEE program strived to:
1. Maintain up-to-date engineering environment
definitions for spacecraft design
2. Have the engineering models, databases, design
guidelines, processes, and procedures (i.e., tools) in
place for use in initial spacecraft design.
3. Implement the processes and plans to routinely update
these tools with research results as soon as the results
are available, thus permitting more efficient and accurate
spacecraft design and operation.
4. Simplify the access to and use of the tools.
This result in spacecraft that are designed faster,
less costly, and operate better than spacecraft designed
without these provisions. The products from the SEE
program supported Earth observations, space
science/astrophysics, Space Station, DoD and commercial
There is an interrelationship between the program, its
customers, and the products. The philosophy of the
program was customer-driven and product-oriented. The
program was composed of government, industry and
academic representatives and participants and the
customers were government and commercial space
missions. General types of program products included:
Environmental Definition Models
Life Certification Methodology
National Test Facilities
Advocacy for national test facilities and flight
opportunities were also products of the program as opposed
to the facilities and flights themselves.