Community Announcement NNH09ZDA009J: NASA intends to release a Discovery Program Draft AO

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) intends to release a Draft Announcement of Opportunity (AO) in June 2009 for Discovery Program missions. The Discovery Program conducts Principal Investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMD’s planetary programs under a not-to-exceed cost cap. It is anticipated that approximately two to three Discovery investigations will be selected for 9-month Phase A concept studies through this AO. At the conclusion of these concept studies, it is planned that one Discovery investigation will be selected to continue into Phase B and subsequent mission phases. There will be no Missions of Opportunity (MO) solicited as part of this AO. All MO are now solicited through the Stand Alone Mission of Opportunity Notice (SALMON) AO.

Discovery Program investigations must address NASA’s planetary science goals as described in Solar System Exploration, NASA’s 2006 roadmap for planetary science. The roadmap may be found at

Investigations may focus on any body in the Solar System, excluding the Earth and the Sun, and including Mars and the Moon. Investigations may not focus on extra-solar planetary systems.

Discovery Program investigations may propose the use of Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generators (ASRGs) for missions enabled by radioisotope power systems.  If selected for flight, NASA will provide up to two ASRGs, including the services associated with their provisioning on space missions, as GFE, and their costs will not be included in the cost cap. The costs for mission-specific accommodations or qualifications, however, are the responsibility of the PI and must be included within the cost cap.

Launch Vehicle costs and procurement will be the responsibility of NASA. Launch vehicle standard services will be provided as GFE and the cost will not be included in the cost cap. The cost of mission specific and special launch services, including the use of radioisotope heating units (RHUs), is the responsibility of the PI and must be included within the cost cap.  NASA is reviewing the possibility of offering options for different launch vehicle capabilities and their impact on the cost cap.

Investigations are capped at a life-cycle cost of $425M (FY10), excluding standard launch services and, if required, ASRGs.  Lower-cost investigations are encouraged.

The schedule for the solicitation is intended to be:

Release of draft AO (target) June 2009
Release of final AO (target) November 2009
Pre-proposal conference      ~3 weeks after final AO release
Proposals due     90 days after AO release
Selection of Phase A studies July 2010 (target)
Concept study reports due May 2011 (target)
Down-selection November 2011 (target)
Launch date NLT December 31, 2016

The Draft Discovery AO will be based on the Standard PI-led Mission AO Template available at Proposers should read the Draft Discovery AO carefully when it is released.

NASA has not approved the issuance of the Discovery AO and this notification does not obligate NASA to issue the AO and solicit proposals. Any costs incurred by prospective investigators in preparing submissions in response to this notification or the planned Draft Discovery AO are incurred completely at the submitter's own risk.

Further information will be posted on the Discovery Program Acquisition Page at as it becomes available. Questions may be addressed to Dr. Michael New, Discovery Program Lead Scientist, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC  20546; Tel.: (202) 358-1766; Email: Michael New.

Please direct questions or corrections on this page to