Market-Based Systems for Solving Space Exploration Resource Allocation Problems

  • Randii Wessen

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    The very nature of space exploration implies "doing that which has never been done before." As such, the resources needed to meet the objectives of such a grand endeavor, if available, are extremely scarce. Every mission since the birth of the space programme has been resource limited. To overcome these
    scarcity or resource issues, natural laws developed in economics can be used. Such economic systems, which are referred to as market-based systems, are based on the laws of supply and demand. Supply and demand knowledge reveals true information about users needs for resources. This information removes the need to appeal to a higher authority or multiple meetings to resolve over subscription issues.

    The nature of this research programme was to apply a market-based system to a varied set of planetary exploration resource allocation problems. In the past, resource constrained problems were solved through the use of many engineers and a large number of "working" meetings. The approach was successful but was exceedingly time-consuming, labor-intensive, and very
    expensive. The questions addressed in this work were,
    1. Could a market-based approach solve space exploration allocation problems, and
    2. What were the limits of the type of problems that could be solved?

    Prior to this research, only one attempt had been made to apply a market-based system to a space exploration problem. The work was performed in 1991 to solve the over subscription of mission requests for Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas. [1] The work was never approved to move from the experimental phase into an operational environment. The research described in this overview
    was based on the DSN attempt and then extended to many different types of problems. This overview will discuss the application of this technique to the following four projects:
    1. Development of the instrument payload for the Cassini mission to Saturn;
    2. Manifest of Space Shuttle Secondary payloads;
    3. Allocation of spacecraft time for RADAR observations during Earth orbital operations; and,
    4. Manifest of Space Shuttles, which are destined for the International Space Station.

    Results from this research prove that market-based systems can solve resource over-subscription issues faced during development and operations of planetary spacecraft missions. In addition, the application of economic principles represents a unique and innovative approach to solving spacecraft resource
    issues and has been incorporated into the set of management tools available to solve issues in a quicker, cheaper and faster environment.
    Date of AwardJul 2002
    Original languageEnglish

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