Uncertainty Reigns as NASA Prepares to Present Budget


NASA Budget Being Drafted Without a Top-Level Advocate
Aviation Week

NASA plans to roll out its Fiscal 2010 budget the first week in May, amid complaints that the White House staff is giving short shrift to the U.S. space program. The space agency is struggling to make ends meet during the difficult transition to the post-shuttle era.

Leading the charge is former Administrator Michael Griffin, who says the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has proposed cutting $3.5 billion from NASA’s budget for developing next-generation human spacecraft during the coming four years. That is just about what the U.S. space agency intends to spend to get started on the vehicles it would need to return to the Moon, a policy the Obama administration endorsed in February.

Meanwhile, engineers are “on the verge” of pulling two of the six seats planned for the Orion capsule intended to succeed the space shuttle as the route to space for U.S. astronauts. That move – meant to simplify what has become a difficult design effort – comes amid reported findings by The Aerospace Corp. that a shift to a human-rated evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) – either an Atlas V or Delta IV – from NASA’s in-house Ares I crew launch vehicle could further simplify the transition to Orion.

So far the Obama administration has been mum on just how it plans to proceed on these and other space-policy issues. No one has been named to replace Griffin, who left office on Jan. 20, and no senior administration official has yet been willing to discuss space-policy issues publicly. The budget rollout is tentatively scheduled for the week of May 4, and it seems likely acting administrator Christopher Scolese – a career civil servant – will present it.

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