NASA Draft New Frontiers Program AO Released

August 12, 2016 – NASA’s Science Mission Directorate (SMD) released a Draft Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for New Frontiers Program (NNH16ZDA008J) mission investigations on August 9, 2016. At the conclusion of Phase A concept studies, it is planned that one New Frontiers investigation will be selected to continue into subsequent mission phases.

The New Frontiers Program conducts Principal Investigator (PI)-led space science investigations in SMD’s planetary programs under a not-to-exceed cost cap for the PI-Managed Mission Cost (PMMC). New Frontiers Program investigations must address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. Both documents are now available at:

Investigations are limited to six mission themes (listed without priority):

  • Comet Surface Sample Return
  • Lunar South Pole-Aitken Basin Sample Return
  • Ocean Worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus)
  • Saturn Probe
  • Trojan Tour and Rendezvous
  • Venus In Situ Explorer
  • Investigations may propose the use of up to three Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators MMRTG) and/or Radioisotope Heater Units (RHUs). The costs for the use of these systems and materials will be included in the draft AO and must be included in the PMMC.

    Launch Vehicle costs and procurement will be the responsibility of NASA. A standard launch performance capability will be defined and provided as GFE and its cost will not be included in the PMMC. The cost of mission specific and special launch services, such as for higher performance launch vehicles or the use of nuclear materials, is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator and must be included within the PMMC.

    The value of foreign contributions remains constrained as was done for the recent Discovery Program AO. The total value of foreign contributions may not exceed one-third of the PMMC, and the value of foreign contributions to the science payload may not exceed one-third of the total payload cost.

    NASA released a draft of the New Frontiers AO on NSPIRES (go to and search open solicitations for NNH16ZDA008J). The draft AO is based on the recent Discovery AO, as well as the Standard PI-led Mission AO Template available at Proposers should read the Draft New Frontiers AO carefully when it is released.

    Comments on the draft AO are due by September 30, 2016, to the Point of Contact given below.

    NASA has not approved the issuance of the New Frontiers 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 New Frontiers AO are incurred completely at the submitter’s own risk.

    The time frame for the solicitation is intended to be:

    Release of draft AO……………………………… August 2016
    Comment period closes……………………… September 30, 2016
    Release of final AO……………………………… January 2017 (target)
    Proposals due……………………………………… April 2017

    Further information will be posted on the New Frontiers Program Acquisition Page at as it becomes available. Questions may be addressed to Dr. Curt Niebur, New Frontiers Program Lead Scientist, Planetary Science Division, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC 20546; Tel.: (202) 358-0390; Email:

    Previous NASA New Frontiers’ missions are New Horizons, Juno and OSIRIS-REx.