Monday, November 22, 2010

NASA TRL: Technology Readiness Levels De-mystified

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In the research and development world, ideas are like schoolchildren.

All new technologies must pass through a number of grades before they are declared ready for graduation.
At NASA, as in the rest of the research community, these grades are called technology readiness levels, or TRLs.

Each TRL represents the evolution of an idea from a thought, perhaps written on a cocktail napkin or the back of an envelope, to the full deployment of a product in the marketplace.

"NASA acknowledges the system as a useful, commonly understood method for explaining to collaborators and stakeholders just how mature a particular technology is," said Tony Strazisar, senior technologist for NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate in Washington.

In fact, NASA invented the system and many of it's space partners follow, with similar systems.

A NASA researcher, Stan Sadin, conceived the first scale in 1974. It had seven levels which were not formally defined until 1989. In the 1990s NASA adopted a scale with nine levels which gained widespread acceptance across industry and remains in use today.

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