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Published on Mar 31, 2010
New technologies offer the promise of at least improved mission performance or better cost-efficiency, and often they are mission-enablers. But reliance on new technologies also increases the risk of exceeding schedule and cost constraints. Methods to quantify and trade-off the risks of alternative technology insertion options against their benefits is critical to any space project, from the very beginning of system definition. When technology development is the program goal, it is vital. But existing programmatic risk assessment approaches are either qualitative, which allows only for limited conclusions when comparing a wide range of alternatives, or bottom-up, detailed-oriented models, which tend to distribute study efforts evenly across all project elements and can lead to the wrong relative conclusions. As in other areas of risk analysis, a top-down systems analysis optimizes study efforts by quickly keying in on drivers which should be the focus of study: in this case, elements with the double risk of high programmatic risk and criticality to the project. This paper proposes a simple, pragmatic approach for quickly mapping the trade-space of performance versus schedule risk by using a top-down approach which provides for apples-to-apples comparison by making schedule uncertainty a function of technology readiness levels (TRL).