CBO: NASA Needs Hefty Budget Increase to Keep on Track

The Congressional Budget Office has released a study of NASA’s budget that indicates the agency would nearly $5 billion in additional funding annually in order to achieve its goals and continue flying the space shuttle beyond 2010.

A summary is below:

CBO’s analysis considers four alternatives to NASA’s current plans, accounting for the possibility of cost growth like what has happened in the past:

  • If NASA’s funding was maintained at $19.1 billion annually and the agency realized cost growth in its programs consistent with the average for 72 of its past programs, its planned schedules for spaceflight programs would be delayed. In particular, the initial operating capability for Ares 1 and Orion would be pushed to late 2016, the return of humans to the moon would slip to 2023, and 15 of 79 science missions would be delayed beyond 2025. The space shuttle would be retired in 2010 and support for the International Space Station would end after 2015.
  • If NASA’s funding was increased to about $23.8 billion annually, the agency would be able to meet its planned schedules notwithstanding cost growth consistent with the average for its past programs. Furthermore, that increase in its budgets would allow NASA to extend the operation of the space shuttle to 2015 and to support the operation of the International Space Station to 2020.
  • Between those two alternatives, if NASA’s funding was increased to about $21.1 billion annually, the agency would be able to meet its planned schedules for the Constellation program even if cost growth was consistent with the average for past programs. But that amount of funding would not permit NASA to fly the space shuttle beyond 2010 or to support the space station beyond 2015. Moreover, under this budgetary scenario, 15 of the planned science missions would be delayed past 2025.
  • Finally, if NASA’s funding was maintained at $19.1 billion annually and the agency reduced funding for science and research in aeronautics to cover cost growth in the Constellation program, it could conduct 44 science missions (35 fewer than planned) by 2025, and the cut to aeronautics research would be more than one-third.

Read the full report.