House Appropriations Committee Boosts NASA’s Budget

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.

The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.

NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.

The bill keeps SLS and Orion at FY 2017 levels while boosting spending for Exploration Ground Systems, which are needed to support launches, and Exploration Research and Development (R&D).

Both the House measure and the administration’s budget request would cut funding for NASA’s  Space Operations budget, which includes the International Space Station, Commercial Crew and Commercial Cargo programs. The program’s $4.95 billion budget would be reduced to  $4.74 billion under the administration’s budget and to $4.67 billion under the appropriations bill.

The report on the House bill does not include a breakdown of spending on the major programs within this account. However, it does stipulated $25 million for the agency’s Venture Class Launch Services initiative, which contracts for CubeSat satellites from launch vehicle suppliers.

NASA FY 2018 BUDGET (Millions of Dollars)
PROGRAMFY 2017
FY 2018 (Requested)FY 2018 (House Appropriations)
Exploration
Space Launch System$2,150.0$1,937.8$2,150.0
Orion$1,350.0$1,186.0$1,350.0
Exploration Ground Systems$429.0$460.4$600.0
Exploration R&D$395.0$350.0$450.0
Totals:$4,324.0$3,934.1$4,550.0
Science
Planetary Science$1,846.0$1,929.5$2,120.9
Earth Science$1,921.0$1,754.1$1,704.0
Astrophysics$750.0$816.7$822.0
James Webb Space Telescope$569.4$533.7$533,7
Heliophysics$678.4$677.4$677.9
Totals:$5,764.9$5,771.8$5,858.5
Space Operations$4,950.7$4,740.8$4,676.6
Space Technology$686.5$678.6$686.5
Safety, Security & Mission Assurance$2,768.6$2,830.2$2,826.2
Education $100.0$37.3$90.0
Construction & Environmental Compliance & Restoration $360.7$496.1$486.1
Office of Inspector General$37.9$39.3$37.9
Totals:$19,653.3$19.092.0$19,871.8

Appropriators gave a $93.6 million increase to NASA’s Science program for a total of nearly $5.86 billion. This is a higher boost than the $9.6 million proposed by the administration.

Within that budget is a re-prioritization of spending for the Planetary and Earth Science programs. The House would boost spending on Planetary Science by $274.9 million to $2.12 billion. The amount is $191.4 million over the $1.93 billion proposed by the administration.

The Earth Science program would be cut from $1.92 billion to $1.75 billion under the president’s budget request. The House measure cuts the program even deeper to $1.7 billion.

Earth as seen from the DSCOVR spacecraft. (Credit: NASA)

The appropriations report makes no mention of five Earth science missions the Trump Administration wants to cancel. One of those measures involves saving $1.2 million per year by turning off the Earth-facing camera and instruments on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), which observes the planet from 1 million miles away.

The House measure includes the following expenditures in the space agency’s Science budget:

  • $646.7 for the Mars exploration, including $374.3 billion for the Mars 2020 mission;
  • $527.9 million for outer planets and ocean worlds exploration, including $495 million for the Jupiter Europa Clipper and Lander missions that Congress wants launched in 2022 and 2024, respectively;
  • $199.1 million for Earth Science Pathfinder Venture Class Missions;
  • $175.8 for continued development of the Landsat-9 remote-sensing spacecraft, which is set for launch in 2020;
  • $55.4 million for a joint synthetic aperture radar mission to be conducted with the Indian space agency ISRO;
  • $214.9 million for technology development, including $35 million for icy satellite surface development, $16 million for plutonium-238 production, and $12 million for the Mars helicopter technology demonstration to be flown with the Mars 2020 million.

The Appropriations Committee wants NASA to obtain more remote sensing data from commercial satellites. “Within amounts provided, NASA is encouraged to acquire, where cost effective, space-based and airborne Earth remote sensing data from commercial partners,” the budget report states.

Artist’s conception of Restore-L servicing satellite with Landsat 7. (Credit: NASA)

The House bill keeps the Space Technology budget flat at $686.5 million, which is slightly above the administration’s request. Highlights of the budget include:

  • $35 million for nuclear thermal propulsion technology, which could reduce travel times to Mars;
    $25 million for research on additive manufacturing technologies;
  • $45.3 million for the Restore–L satellite servicing mission’
  • a requirement that NASA deliver a a draft conceptual road map for humanity’s first interstellar mission by May 2018.

House appropriators rejected the administration’s proposal to close NASA’s education office in favor of programs across the agency. They would provide $90 million to the program, a reduction of $10 million under FY 2017 spending. The administration proposed spending $37.3 million to close out the program.

The bill divides Education funding as follows:

  • $40 million for the Space Grant program;
  • $32 million for the Minority University Research Education Program; and,
  • $18 million for the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.

NASA’s $660 million Aeronautics budget includes $79.2 million to continue development of the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator, an aircraft designed to reduce sonic booms from supersonic airplanes. The objective is to develop technology that could be incorporated into a new generation of aircraft that could fly supersonic over land.

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  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    …. This one is my fav …. a requirement that NASA deliver a a draft conceptual road map for humanity’s first interstellar mission by May 2018.

    It’s as if …..

    Dateline: Baltimore 1876, April 1.

    Today, the War Dept has instructed the Sec of the Navy to form form a blue ribbon committee to explore a conceptual road map for the Navy’s first under-sea boat that can circumnavigate the worlds oceans without coming to the surface.

  • therealdmt

    Or even worse, that they want a roadmap to launch the first interstellar mission by May 2018!

    Still, if they’re paying for it… “If they orders a road map, we gives
    ’em a roadmap!”

  • duheagle

    Right. Crazy Buck Rogers stuff. Kinda like Von Braun spitballing all those deep space mission architectures back in the 50’s.

    There are already purely private groups that have been working on stuff like this for a long time. NASA is allegedly where the experts/professionals are supposed to be. I’d kinda like to see what they can come up with in 10 months. Might give us an idea as to how worthwhile it is to keep some of these people on the payroll.