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The Project Life Cycle for Major NASA Systems
3 The Project Life Cycle for Major NASA
Systems One of the fundamental concepts used within
NASA for the management of major systems is the program/project life cycle, which consists of a
categorization of everything that should be done to
accomplish a project into distinct phases, separated by
control gates. Phase boundaries are defined so that they
provide more-or-less natural points for go/no-go
decisions. Decisions to proceed may be qualified by
liens that must be removed within a reasonable time. A
project that fails to pass a control gate and has enough
resources may be allowed to “go back to the drawing
board"—or it may be terminated.
All systems start with the recognition of a need or
the discovery of an opportunity and proceed through
various stages of development to a final disposition.
While the most dramatic impacts of the analysis and
optimization activities associated with systems
engineering are obtained in the early stages, decisions
that affect millions of dollars of value or cost continue to
be amenable to the systems approach even as the end
of the system lifetime approaches.
Decomposing the project life cycle into phases organizes the entire process into more manageable
pieces. The project life cycle should provide managers
with incremental visibility into the progress being made
at points in time that fit with the management and
budgetary environments. NASA documents governing
the acquisition of major systems (NMI 7120.4 and NHB
7120.5) define the phases of the project life cycle as:
• Pre-Phase A—Advanced Studies ("find a suitable
Phase A—Preliminary Analysis ("make sure the
project is worthwhile")
Phase B—Definition ("define the project and establish a preliminary design")
Phase C—Design ("complete the system design")
Phase D — Development ("build, integrate, and
verify the system, and prepare for...
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