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New Challenges for Cost Analysts: Creating Technical Baselines for Point Estimates

Analysis Track

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As cost analysts are integrated into product teams earlier in program lifecycles, we are required to complete estimates and provide budget inputs well before the typical parameters of a program technical baseline are understood. Many times, these conceptual designs (either contractor designs or reference architectures) are based on immature technology rather than historically proven design solutions. This paper details how a satellite working technical baseline can be constructed using a parametric model that utilizes customer requirements, target performance, and cost objectives. This effort began when the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) program office turned to the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency (AFCAA) to support their 2008 Program Objective Memorandum (POM) submittal of various ORS alternatives. Unfortunately, only basic user requirements were understood and a budget wedge was provided as a starting point. Lack of information on classical cost estimating parameters such as size, weight, and power presented the analysts with unique challenges that necessitated an innovative method for creating satellite technical baselines and resultant cost estimates.

The paper will briefly outline the ORS design concept, and then describes the derivation of sizing relationships (weight and power) for payload and bus subsystems from user requirements and other design constraints. It will present some fundamental physics and engineering principles that translate performance requirements to design variables for electro-optical payloads and the supporting bus subsystems. Trade-offs between these variables, while maintaining a working technical baseline, are also modeled. The paper will conclude with an example of some of the trade studies which can be completed with the model, as well as future enhancements and improvements.

This research was sponsored and supported by the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency (AFCAA).


Samuel Toas
Samuel B. Toas is a Technical and Research Lead for Northrop Grumman IT – TASC and is currently providing cost support for the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency
(AFCAA). Mr. Toas has several years of experience working for Intelligence Community and Department of Defense customers, performing cost estimating, risk analysis, and model development on various Automated Information Systems
(AIS)/Space programs. Within TASC, he is leading initiatives such as the development of a Division Technical Forum to share best practices. Mr. Toas has a strong engineering background and was previously employed as a Research Manager for an industrial turbine manufacturer. He graduated Summa Cum Laude from The Georgia Institute of Technology Laude in 1999 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

Joseph Frisbie
Joseph P. Frisbie has been a Cost Analyst and Estimator for Northrop Grumman since 2005. Mr. Frisbie has supported various Intelligence Community and Department of Defense customers, performing model development, method improvement, research, and life-cycle cost estimating on different space programs. Mr. Frisbie has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management with a concentration in Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship from James Madison University. He is an active member of SCEA.

Duncan Thomas
Duncan D. Thomas serves with the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency (AFCAA) as Technical Director to the Space Programs Division. In this position he is responsible for all data collection, normalization, research, model development, and estimating standards for Air Force space cost estimating. Prior to this, Mr. Thomas served as Chief of the Space Programs Division at AFCAA.
Mr. Thomas has been involved with cost analysis for over 18 years beginning as an intern and junior analyst for three years at Northrop Corporation, junior/mid/and senior analyst for 12 years with Tecolote Research, Inc., two years as Manager and Chief Scientist of the Cost Estimating Branch of MEVATEC Corporation, and the last five years with the AFCAA Space Division. Major program estimating and cost research efforts include the Air Force Follow-on Early Warning System (FEWS), US Army Theatre High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and RAH-66 Comanche helicopter, and research for Tooling for Composite Parts (presented at the 33rd DoDCAS). Mr. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science in Applied Mathematics from the University of California at Los Angeles