NASA recently released preliminary guidelines for proposals for the next Discovery Program mission. The Principal Investigator (PI) budget, which covers the cost of the spacecraft, its science payload, and data analysis, is capped at \$450 million.
Outside of the PI’s budget, NASA will pay for the cost of the mission launch. For the first time, NASA will pay for the cost of the mission’s operation outside of the PI budget. In past competitions, missions with long flight times, and hence high operations costs, were at a disadvantage to missions with low operations costs. This appears to be an effort to equalize operations costs. Missions that would benefit are any with flight times of several years compared to the weeks or months to reach Venus, the moon, or Mars. With operations costs not counted against the PI’s budget, the new competition probably keeps up with inflation compared to the previous competition. (NASA’s announcement does emphasize that the operations costs projected for a mission must be ‘reasonable’.)
If I were heading a team putting together a Discovery Program mission proposal, I would want some hard data to determine what NASA might consider 'reasonable'. Several points to consider:
NASA has already announced that no radioisotope power systems will be available for your mission, so you're stuck with solar power. Also, previous Discovery missions could get 1/3 of their budget from a foreign space agency, but this did not apply to science instruments paid for by foreign governments; now, the 1/3 cap has been extended to science payload as well.
As a savvy project manager, my first thought would be to try to see how previous mission proposals were budgeted.
Are there any online sources for budgets from previous Discovery Program missions?