Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)

Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)


Technology Readiness Levels Definition

Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) are a type of measurement system used to assess the maturity level of a particular technology and are popular with NASA and the US Department of Defense, etc. Each technology project is evaluated against the parameters for each technology level and is then assigned a TRL rating based on the progress of the project.


Technology Readiness Level (TRL) Scale

There are nine technology readiness levels. TRL 1 is the lowest and TRL 9 is the highest.


The advantages of TRLs

  • Provide a common understanding of technology status,
  • Risk management,
  • Used to make decisions concerning technology funding, and
  • Used to make decisions concerning the transition of technology.


The nine hardware TRLs are defined as follows: NASA

  • TRL 1 : Basic principles observed and reported,

Scientific research is beginning and those results are being translated into future research and development. 

  • TRL 2 : Technology concept or application formulated,

It occurs once the basic principles have been studied and practical applications can be applied to those initial findings. TRL 2 technology is very speculative, as there is little to no experimental proof of concept for the technology.

  • TRL 3 : Experimental and analytical critical function and characteristic proof of concept,

When active research and design begin, a technology is elevated to TRL 3. Generally, both analytical and laboratory studies are required at this level to see if a   technology is viable and ready to proceed further through the development process. Often during TRL 3, a proof-of-concept model is constructed.

  • TRL 4 : Component or breadboard validation in a laboratory environment,

Once the proof-of-concept technology is ready, the technology advances to TRL 4. During TRL 4, multiple component pieces are tested with one another.

  • TRL 5 : Component or breadboard validation in a relevant environment,

TRL 5 is a continuation of TRL 4, however, a technology that is at 5 is identified as a breadboard technology and must undergo more rigorous testing than technology that is only at TRL 4. Simulations should be run in environments that are as close to reality as possible.

  • TRL 6 : System or subsystem model or prototype demonstrated in a relevant environment,

Once the testing of TRL 5 is complete, technology may advance to TRL 6. A TRL 6 technology has a fully functional prototype or representational model.

  • TRL 7 : System prototype demonstration in an operational environment,

TRL 7 technology requires that the working model or prototype be demonstrated in a space environment.

  • TRL 8 : Actual system completed and “flight qualified” through test and demonstration,

TRL 8 technology has been tested and "flight qualified" and it's ready for implementation into an already existing technology or technology system. 

  • TRL 9 : Actual system “flight-proven” through successful mission operations.

Once a technology has been "flight-proven" during a successful mission, it can be called TRL 9.



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