by David Bullock
The White House has proposed hiking NASA’s budget by nearly $2 billion to $26 billion for fiscal year 2023 as the space agency gears up for an uncrewed flight test of a new rocket and spacecraft designed to help return astronauts to the moon for the first time in 50 years.
More than half the 7.7 percent increase – $1.1 billion – would go to NASA’s exploration budget, which aims to land the first woman and first person of color at the lunar south pole under the Artemis program later this decade. The program includes $1.5 billion for the Human Landing System (HLS) that will take the two astronauts to and from the lunar surface. The proposal represents an increase of $290 million over FY 2022.
The budget proposal comes as NASA begins a dress rehearsal of its first Space Launch System/Orion flight test at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The uncrewed Orion spacecraft will fly to the moon in the Artemis I mission. A crewed flight test would follow in 2024, with a landing set for no earlier than 2025.
The exploration budget also includes $161.3 million for research and development of systems to take astronauts to Mars. Most of the funding — $121 million — is focused on deep-space habitation systems.
Space Operations, which includes the International Space Station (ISS), is up $225 million this year to a proposed budget of $4.27 billion. The amount includes $1.3 billion for space station operations and nearly $1.8 billion for space transportation.
NASA 2023 Proposed Budget
(in thousands of dollars)
|Account||FY 22 Enacted||FY 23 Proposed||Difference||Percent Difference|
|Space Launch System||$2,600.0||$2,579.8||-$20.2||-0.8%|
|Exploration Ground Systems||$590.0||$749.9||$159.9||23.9%|
|Biological and Physical Sciences||$82.5||$100.4||$17.9||19.6%|
|Safety, Security & Mission Service||$3,020.6||$3,208.7||$188.1||6.0%|
|Construction and Environmental||$410.3||$424.3||$14.0||3.4%|
Space Operations also includes $224 million in funding for the development of commercial space stations that NASA plans to use when ISS is decommissioned. That amount represents an increase of $101 million from the current budget.
NASA’s science budget would be increased by $373.9 million to just under $8 billion. The majority of the increase — $346.8 million — would be devoted to Earth science. Battling climate change is a major priority for the Biden Administration.
The joint Mars Sample Return mission with the European Space Agency (ESA) would receive $822 million. This number was unchanged by the White House, even after the recent decision to split the Sample Retrieval Lander into two separate landers and now launch in 2028, instead of 2026.
The science budget would also provide:
- $486 million for the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program which partners with industry to deliver to the Moon instruments and other payloads, including the VIPER mission, a lunar rover to investigate volatiles on the South Pole of the Moon;
- $230 million for investments in a competitive Discovery program, including newly selected missions to Venus;
- Continued funding for the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter’s frozen moon, Psyche mission to a metal rich asteroid, and the Dragonfly aerial vehicle that will explore Saturn’s moon, Titan; and
- $88 million to maintain support for the Planetary Defense Program to study near-Earth objects, detection and mitigation, including the Near-Earth Object Surveyor mission for launch no earlier than 2028.
Space technology is seeking more than $1.4 billion, an increase of $338 million over the $1.1 billion provided for FY 2022. The proposal includes:
- $525 million to conduct ground-based testing and space flight technology demonstrations on new technologies, including: orbital refueling, cryogenic fluid management, fission surface power, solar electric propulsion, small spacecraft technologies;
- $472 million to mature advance disruptive exploration technologies;
- $156 million for early-stage innovation technology and partnerships;
- $285 million for the Small Business Innovation Research and Technology Transfer programs to leverage the nation’s innovative small business community.
Aeronautics would receive $971.5 million, an increase of $90.8 million over the current budget. The funding would include:
$289 million for integrated aviation systems to support the X-59 low boom supersonic flight demonstrator, X-57 Maxwell all-electric aircraft, and early designs of a sustainable flight demonstrator;
$253 million for advanced air vehicles to conduct research to meet the nation’s growing long-term civil aviation needs such as more efficient aircraft and propulsion technologies to reduce carbon emissions from aviation;
• $156 million for transformative aero concepts to support revolutionary aviation concepts, including research on zero-emissions aviation; and,
• $156 million for airspace operations and safety to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to modernize and transform the national air traffic management system; and,
• $117 million for aerosciences evaluation and test capabilities to support critical national ground test infrastructure.
NASA’s STEM Engagement budget would receive $150.1 million, an increase of $13.1 million over the current amount.