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ESSP Program Acquisition.

LaRC SSO ESSP Acquisitions

View of Planet Earth

View of planet Earth (credit NASA).

Earth System Science Pathfinder

The Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program is a science-driven Program designed to provide an innovative approach to Earth science research by providing periodic, competitively selected opportunities to accommodate new and emergent scientific priorities. ESSP Projects include developmental, high-risk, high-return Earth Science missions including advanced remote sensing instrument approaches to achieve these priorities, and often involve partnerships with other U.S. agencies and/or with international science and space organizations. These Projects are capable of supporting a variety of scientific objectives related to Earth science, including the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, polar ice regions and solid earth. Projects include development and operation of space missions, space-based remote sensing instruments for missions of opportunity, and airborne science missions, and the conduct of science research utilizing data from these missions. ESSP missions encompass the entire Project life-cycle from definition, through design, development, integration and test, launch, operations, science data analysis, distribution and archival.


Earth Venture Programmatic Overview

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Science Mission Directorate (SMD) Earth Science Division’s Earth Venture (EV) mission portfolio is an element within the Earth System Science Pathfinder (ESSP) Program. Earth Venture missions consist of a series of regularly solicited, competitively selected, cost and schedule constrained Earth science investigations as recommended by the most recent National Research Council’s decadal survey in Earth science, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (The National Academies Press, 2007), available at
The goal of NASA’s Earth Venture mission portfolio is to provide frequent flight opportunities for high quality, high value, focused Earth science investigations that can be accomplished under a not-to-exceed cost cap and that can be developed and flown relatively quickly, generally in five years. The investigations will be principal investigator (PI) led and will be selected through an open competition to ensure broad community involvement and encourage innovative approaches.
The programmatic objectives of the Earth Venture mission portfolio are to implement missions that will:
  • advance scientific knowledge of Earth science processes and systems;
  • add scientific data and other knowledge-based products to data archives for all to access;
  • result in scientific progress and results published in the peer-reviewed literature to encourage, to the maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of the knowledge gained;
  • provide opportunities to expand the pool of well-qualified Principal Investigators and Project Managers for implementation of future NASA missions
  • implement technology advancements accomplished through related programs; and
  • communicate scientific progress and results through popular media, scholastic curricula, and outreach materials that can be used to inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
The EV investigations will accomplish high quality Earth science investigations utilizing efficient management approaches to contain mission cost through commitment to, and control of, design, development, and operations costs.
The EV will solicit investigations addressing any of the science focus areas in NASA’s Earth Science program. Investigations may target any Earth science question or issue in order to advance strategic goals and answer any of the science questions for Earth Science or address any of the science area objectives for Earth Science from the NASA 2014 Science Plan (available at


Earth Venture Background

Earth Venture is being implemented in the broader context of NASA’s Earth Science program and is intended to result in more frequent opportunities than afforded by the strategic and directed missions outlined in the National Research Council’s decadal survey in Earth science.
The following foci have been identified for the Earth Venture-class missions:
  • measurement and observation innovations;
  • demonstration of innovative ideas allowing the use of existing moderately higher-risk technologies or approaches;
  • establishment of new research avenues; and
  • possible demonstration of key application-oriented measurements.
The selection criteria for EV missions are based primarily on the direct science return from the measurement.
The National Research Council’s decadal survey in Earth science and applications has recommended three types of Earth Venture-class missions. Through the Earth Venture mission portfolio, NASA intends to obtain a mix of suborbital, instrument, and complete spaceflight mission investigations. To achieve this mix, three different kinds of solicitations are being pursued under the Earth Venture-class line.

EV Suborbital (i.e., EVS-1, 2, 3, …). These solicitations call for proposals for complete suborbital, PI-led investigations to conduct innovative, integrated, hypothesis or scientific question-driven approaches to pressing Earth system science issues.
EV-Mission (i.e., EVM-1, 2, 3, …). These solicitations call for proposals for complete PI-led spaceflight missions to conduct innovative, integrated, hypothesis or scientific question-driven approaches to pressing Earth system science issues.
EV Instrument (e.g., EVI-1, 2, 3, …). These solicitations call for developing instruments for participation on a NASA-arranged spaceflight mission of opportunity to conduct innovative, integrated, hypothesis or scientific question-driven approaches to pressing Earth system science issues. The NASA funded PI will retain a central role on the instrument or instrument package development, integration and testing, calibration, and science operations. The EVI series of solicitations are anticipated every 18 months (or after the selection announcement of the previously solicited EVI).

All Earth Venture-class spaceflight missions require a schedule for launch (or delivery for platform integration in the case of EVI) within five years of project initiation and projects are cost-capped. The Earth Venture class is not intended to be a mechanism for accelerating the implementation of decadal survey missions. However, it is also possible and acceptable that an instrument selected and developed through this solicitation could address significant portions of missions or measurements identified by the decadal survey.