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Scope and Description

This topic covers the processes and procedures related to schedule management from conceptual design through the development and testing of a smallsat mission. Actively planning and tracking the schedule of a smallsat mission is vital to mission success. There are a variety of standard schedule management techniques and processes, and it will ultimately be up to the project manager or team leader to decide which are needed to meet the specific goals of each smallsat team.

Resources in this topic area are primarily general scheduling resources that can be applied to most projects. Specific management approaches discussed under this topic include developing and maintaining a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), using an Integrated Master Schedule (IMS), and following Earned Value Management (EVM) practices.

Best Practices and Lessons Learned

  • Automated schedule management tools should be used on all NASA programs/projects.
  • Agile development processes should be considered when teams require speed and flexibility developing smallsats.
  • Use Gantt and network diagrams to show project tasks and milestones make sure these tools can be easily shared with team members and project stakeholders.
  • Determine and maintain the schedule's "critical path" to show the specific tasks and milestones that are driving the project completion date.
  • Always add margin when developing a schedule. This is especially important for critical path items like integration and testing, which can often run over schedule. This will help manage stakeholder expectations and help avoid unexpected delays toward the end of the program.


White Paper

This handbook describes the cost estimating process from receiving a customer request through developing ... and presenting the cost estimate to project stakeholders. Smaller programs can use the Analogy Cost Estimating methodology outlined in section 2.2 of the handbook. Included in this resource are multiple links to other useful models, tools, and handbooks that will help in cost and schedule management.

White Paper

This handbook provides guidance on the schedule management process and best practices to effectively ... plan and execute a NASA program/project. The traditional project management process using the waterfall technique is described in this document and is an excellent resource for planning, managing, and reporting throughout the entire project life cycle.


These appendices include a number of resources that are relevant to the development of satellite cost ... and schedule estimates - including advice on work breakdown structure (WBS) development, models and tools, and specific guidance for software cost estimation.

White Paper
Defense Systems Management College

Managing cost and schedule of a project is essential to program success. This article provides program ... managers with best practices and procedures to follow in developing and managing a schedule. It also includes examples of various schedule analysis methods and charts that are commonly used throughout a product's life cycle.

White Paper
Defense Acquisition University (DAU)

The Integrated Master Plan (IMP) and Integrated Master Schedule (IMS) are business tools that improve ... program success by implementing "a systematic approach to program planning, scheduling, and execution." This guide outlines the general approach to developing and maintaining an IMP and IMS for programs during various life cycle phases.

White Paper

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) developed the Schedule Assessment Guide to provide project ... managers with best practices for project scheduling. This guide provides details on how to properly schedule project tasks as well as how to assess the health and risk of the overall schedule. Chapter 8 outlines the steps to conducting a schedule risk analysis to ensure that risks are tracked and mitigated at every step in a project.

US Air Force

This standard "defines requirements and expectations for contractor performance" in US Air Force Space ... and Missile Systems Center acquisition and technology development efforts. The complete set of high-level management practices required by this document are probably not appropriate for most smallsat missions, however they can serve as options worth considering for management of both internal efforts and those of subcontractors and suppliers on smallsat projects.

White Paper

As described in this resource, "a WBS is a product-oriented family tree that identifies the hardware, ... software, services, and all other deliverables required to achieve an end project objective. The purpose of a WBS is to subdivide the project’s work content into manageable segments to facilitate planning and control of cost, schedule, and technical content." This detailed handbook documents NASA's approach to developing, maintaining, and using a WBS for management of budget, schedule, and other elements of a project.

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