More NASA Funding Provisions From the Omnibus Spending Bill

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Here are some additional provisions included in the omnibus spending measure unveiled by Congress on Wednesday.

Commercial Crew

“This Act provides up to $1,243,800,000 for NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability to safely send the Nation’s astronauts to and from the ISS by 2017. The Committees note that NASA notified Congress in an August 2015 letter of its decision to modify an existing contract with the Russian government for crew transportation services beyond 2017. That decision was made prior to any final action by Congress on NASA’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability funding for fiscal year 2016.

“The funds provided in this Act enable NASA to follow the fastest path to independence from Russia by providing for continuing development of a domestic crew launching capability. If necessary, NASA may derive resources for milestone payments from funds set aside for Russia by NASA for ISS crew launches scheduled to occur after U.S. providers will be operational in 2017. NASA shall reevaluate its need to procure additional seats from Russia in consideration of the funding level being provided within the Space Operations account.”

In August, NASA informed Congress in August that it had spent an additional $490 million to secure Soyuz seats “due to continued reductions in the president’s funding requests for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program over the past several years.”

Deep Space Habitation Module

The bill provides $55 million “for a habitation augmentation module to maximize the potential of the SLS/Orion architecture in deep space. NASA shall develop a prototype deep space habitation module within the advanced exploration systems program no later than 2018 and provide a report within 180 days after enactment, and annually thereafter, regarding the status and obligation of funding for the program.”

RESTORE Satellite Servicing Program

The measure provides a total of $148 million for this program, with $133 million from Space Technology and $15 million from Space Operations.

Plutonium-238 Production

The bill includes $15,000,000 as requested for the production of fuel needed to power deep-space vehicles.

Termination Liability Policy

Contractors on major NASA contract set aside funds to cover costs should the space agency cancel a program due to convenience. In the case of Space Launch System and Orion, these funds run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. House legislators have unsuccessfully attempted to modify this policy in order to free up those funds for immediate use. If a program was later canceled, funds would be appropriated at that time.

“In lieu of House language regarding a termination liability policy, the agreement directs NASA to vigorously pursue a termination liability policy that maximizes the use of appropriated funds and directs NASA to submit such a termination liability policy to the Committees no later than 180 days after enactment of this Act,” according to a budget document.