Smith, Palazzo Decry SLS Schedule Delay

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith

Washington, D.C. (House Science Commitee PR) – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Space Subcommittee Chairman Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), sent a letter to NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. about reported delays to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle. The news comes despite congressional support above the Administration’s full budget requests and repeated Administration assurances that the exploration priorities are on schedule.

Chairman Smith: “I was alarmed to learn that the timeline for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew vehicle programs has shifted. This news is contrary to numerous assurances from the Administration that these programs are on schedule. The House Science, Space, & Technology Committee has repeatedly committed to supporting these programs at or above the Administration’s request for a 2017 launch date. Now we are being told that date has changed to November 2018. This also calls into question the commitment of the Administration that has consistently reduced the budgets for these vital programs.

“I will continue doing everything in my power to ensure these programs remain on schedule and on budget. I urge the Administration to once more renew its commitment to our nation’s space exploration programs.”

On Wednesday, NASA officials announced a launch readiness schedule based on an initial SLS flight no later than November 2018. This comes as a change to previous plans for a flight in 2017. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report also found that, “the agency’s current funding plan for SLS may be $400 million short of what the program needs to launch by 2017.” The president’s most recent budget request for FY2015 reduced these programs by over $330 million compared to the FY2014 appropriation enacted by Congress. Had Congress agreed to the Administration’s original requests, NASA delays could have been even longer.

In June, the House passed the Committee’s NASA Authorization Act with full support for SLS and Orion following personal assurances from Administrator Bolden that“this is the amount of money that we need to deliver SLS on the date and time that we said.”

The full letter can be found here.