Mikulski Puts $10 Million in Budget for Wallops Upgrades

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

WASHINGTON (Sen. Mikulski PR) – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee, today announced that the fiscal year (FY) 2017 CJS spending bill provides $10 million for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Wallops Island Flight Facility’s 21st Century Launch Complex.


Mikulski Statement on NASA’s Budget Proposal

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (CJS) Subcommittee, attended her final CJS Subcommittee hearing. The hearing reviewed the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) fiscal year 2017 budget request. Senator Mikulski has helped oversee NASA’s budget throughout her tenure on the Appropriations Committee, which began in 1987, and has been the lead Democrat overseeing its budget since 1989. She joined the then Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Subcommittee in 1997, and became the top Democrat on the Subcommittee in 2005 when it became Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, and included the NASA account.

The following are Vice Chairwoman Mikulski’s remarks, as prepared for delivery:


Sen. Shelby on NASA’s Proposed Budget: I Hate It!

Sen. Richard Shelby
Sen. Richard Shelby

Chairman Richard Shelby Opening Statement
Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

Hearing to Review the Budget Request and Budget Justification for the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
March 10, 2016

(As prepared for delivery)

Welcome to the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee hearing on the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget request for NASA.

I want to welcome Administrator Charlie Bolden, who will testify before the Subcommittee this morning.


CSF Applauds Failed Mikulski Amendment to Fully Fund Commercial Crew

CSF_logo2WASHINGTON, D.C. (CSF PR) — Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill. The bill increases NASA’s budget by $279 million above its FY 2015 budget, but underfunds NASA’s Commercial Crew program by more than $300 million. Failing to fully fund the Commercial Crew program in FY 2016 would result in the United States human spaceflight gap being extended, again, and ensuring further payments to the Russians for launches of American astronauts to the ISS beyond 2017. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Vice-Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, offered an amendment that would have restored the $300 million to the Commercial Crew program, avoiding a further gap and reliance on the Russians. The Committee failed to adopt the amendment.

Full funding for the Commercial Crew program is necessary to support NASA’s CCtCap Contract, as was strongly recommended by NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) for the safety, reliability and the best schedule performance. The ASAP, in its most recent annual report, expressed concern over the impact of insufficient funding for the Commercial Crew program on contractual obligations: “Under these Firm Fixed Price contracts, the contractor receives pre-determined payments for completion of pre-defined work. If the [Commercial Crew] Program does not receive sufficient funding, the contractor cannot be directed to ‘slow down’ without an equitable adjustment (increase) in fixed price. Alternatively, reducing the scope of certification work to accommodate funding shortfalls could affect safety.”

Last month during the ASAP’s 2015 Second Quarterly Meeting, NASA’s independent safety advisory panel reiterated its funding concerns: “Now that the companies are under fixed-price contracts, it is important for all to recognize that if NASA does not receive the appropriations that it is counting on, it will have a very significant impact on schedule, and we will end up relying on the Russians beyond the 2017 target.”

“We understand that as long as the 2011 budget caps remain in place, Congress will be forced to make tough tradeoffs regarding funding priorities,” said CSF President Eric Stallmer. “With that said, fully funding NASA’s Commercial Crew program should be viewed as a priority, as strongly recommended on numerous occasions by NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety and Advisory Panel. We applaud Senator Mikulski’s effort to amend the bill, which would have responsibly funded the Commercial Crew program at this critical stage in development and safety certification. While Senator Mikulski’s effort came up short today, we look forward to continuing to work with the Committee to find ways to fully fund the Commercial Crew program and avoid unnecessarily extending our reliance on the Russians.”

Mikulski Wants More Money for NASA

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski doesn’t much like President Obama’s proposed $18.5 billion budget for NASA. And she likes the House Science Committee’s budget even less.

“Although I appreciated what the president advised, I found that the funding for the space program needed to be more robust,” she said. “It’s too spartan and it’s too skimpy.”

Mikulski argued that, despite recent increases, NASA was still underfunded. The 2016 request “is actually less than when Al Gore was vice president,” once corrected for inflation, she said. In fiscal year 2001, the last budget approved while Gore was in office, NASA received $14.2 billion, or nearly $19 billion in present-day dollars….

Mikulski’s promise to increase NASA’s budget puts her on a collision course with the House. While appropriators there have yet to take up a spending bill that includes NASA, an authorization bill to be marked up by the House Science Committee April 30 would offer $18.5 billion for NASA in 2016, the same amount as the administration’s request. That House bill, though, would transfer funds from Earth science and space technology programs to planetary science, the Space Launch System, and Orion.

“They are obsessed with human spaceflight and going to Mars,” she said of the House. She said that while she supported human spaceflight as well, she sought a more balanced program. “We also need space science and the kind of discovery done by technology to lay the groundwork for human discovery.”

Read the full story.

Mikulski Decides 40 Years in Congress is Enough

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced on Monday that she would not be seeking a sixth term next year, bringing a 40-year Congressional career to an end and depriving NASA of one of its most powerful supporters.

Mikulski, 78, said she would rather spend the next two years working on behalf of her constituents rather than raising money and running for re-election. She has served in the Senate since 1987 following a 10-year stint representing Maryland’s 3rd District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mikulski is the ranking Democratic member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the committee’s Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) subcommittee, which oversees NASA’s budget. She headed the Appropriations Committee from December 2012 until January 2015.


State of Maryland, NASA Begin New Technology Transfer Partnership

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

GREENBELT, Md. (NASA PR) — The state of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have embarked on a new partnership effort, the main goal of which is to attract high technology companies to Maryland, which in turn will enable both future missions of NASA and the economic future of Maryland.

The agreement, signed by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Goddard Space Flight Center Director Chris Scolese will help in several ways. Goddard will obtain specialized skills and technologies needed for its numerous mission applications. It will help the center engage in technical exchanges with local tech companies regarding new trends, theories, techniques and problems in aerospace technology. And finally, it will provide an opportunity for the development of local educational and labor resources specific to Goddard’s needs.


Mikulski to House: Drop Dead!

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

The Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, led by Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), has approved an FY 2014 budget that includes $18 billion for NASA.

The amount is higher than the $17.7 billion requested by the Obama Administration. The budget sets up a showdown with the House, where two subcommittees have given the space agency $16.85 billion and $16.6 billion.
In a press release, the committee said:
“No agency represents the Nation’s scientific prowess like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The dream of space inspires schoolchildren to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But the dream of space also inspires brilliant scientists and engineers at the height of their careers to probe even deeper into the secrets of the universe and our origins. NASA scientists and their private sector and university partners are peering into the big bang and the origins of the universe, drilling into rocks on Mars, researching cures for salmonella on the International Space Station, building the vehicles that will let humans explore beyond low earth orbit, preparing to analyze samples from the Sun, and looking back to Earth to understand and protect our planet. The $18 billion in the bill for NASA will preserve a NASA portfolio balanced among science, aeronautics, technology and human space flight investments. Moreover, it will keep NASA in the forefront of innovation, inspiring private companies to build new crew transportation and spawning a new satellite servicing industry that can revive, refuel, and rejuvenate defunct communications satellites.”
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Mikulski to Chair Senate Appropriations Committee

Sen. Barbara Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Mikulski

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Maryland Senator and NASA backer Barbara Mikulski is set to get a big promotion, moving up to become the first female chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.  The new role will give Mikulski, who has served in the Senate for 26 years, greater influence over spending on the entire federal budget.

The unexpected decision came after the death last week of Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye. Several other senators in line for the position reportedly passed on the assignment.

Mikulski is the current chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee’s Subcommitee on Commerce, Justice, and Science, which oversees funding for NASA,  National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce, Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


This Week at NASA Video

Barbara Mikulski visits Wallops to get an update on Antares, the first Orion capsule is prepped at Michoud, Langley conducts experiments on a composite capsule, Charles Bolden is presented with an award, and much more.

More Nonsense From Congress

“This show ain’t no good.” Elvis cancels The Scratchy Show. (Credit: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox)

Jeff Foust has a long and rather depressing accounting of the Senate hearing on NASA’s budget yesterday.  Some of the nonsensical things that were said:

Sen. Richard Shelby: “Mr. Administrator, I believe that the core mission of NASA is to build cutting-edge systems that allow us to expand our knowledge of the universe.”

Shelby’s “cutting edge systems” involve a monster Space Launch System (SLS) based on shuttle booster technologies designed in the 1970’s that will cost a fortune to build, maintain and operate.  In fact, it’s so expensive that we won’t be able to fly it very often, limiting our ability to explore the universe.  (more…)

Virginia Hits Back at Florida Over Human Spaceflight

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

Virginians are pushing back against efforts by Florida to maintain its monopoly on human spaceflight missions. Jack Kennedy, a prominent backer of commercial space in Virginia, sent the following email to supporters on Saturday:

“Space Florida is getting really aggressive and negative to the possibility of human commercial space launch from Wallops Island, Virginia.

“I strongly urge you to communicate with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Congressman Frank Wolf and Senator Mark Warner, in particular. ASK that they call upon Boeing to openly pledge to launch the Atlas-V from Virginia under the NASA Commercial Crew program by 2015.

“Your e-Mail, letter, and/or phone call to these three Congressional offices may go a long way to make human space flight from Virginia a reality (especially in the wake of the Florida push back against Virginia’s spaceport).

“Please act this week.”


Maryland Launches Space Science Business Initiative

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. (Credit: Jay Baker)


Governor Martin O’Malley today unveiled a bold new initiative to increase the business development and commercialization opportunities of the state’s space industry at the Maryland Space Business Roundtable in Greenbelt. Speaking before over 500 members of the Roundtable, the Governor reinforced the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s commitment to this vibrant sector and outlined new policy initiatives and investments in Maryland: The Business of Space Science.

“Working side-by-side with our congressional delegation and our ‘Space Senator,’ Barbara Mikulski, we will pursue program policies to leverage our federal facilities and institutions of science and discovery to unlock the enormous economic and employment potential of Maryland’s space sector,” Governor O’Malley said.  “The breakthroughs and innovations occurring in Maryland at NASA, NOAA, Johns Hopkins, APL and other institutions represent new frontiers for commercialization and business development in areas like carbon monitoring, manufacturing and life sciences.”


Mikulski: Wallops Becoming the Southwest Airlines of Space

Launch complexes on Wallops Island, Virginia

Here’s an interesting quote from Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski which was included in a press release issued after Gov. Martin O’Malley toured the Wallops Flight Facility on Monday.

“Wallops Island Flight Facility is home to American innovation. I fought to keep jobs at the Wallops Flight Facility and I will continue to fight to create the jobs of the future. Today we can see our investment in innovation is paying off, as Wallops becomes the Southwest Airlines of space: a lower cost, safer way to launch.”

The full press release after the break.


Senators Mikulski and Nelson Craft a Response to Obama’s NASA Plan

Florida Senator Bill Nelson

Mikulski slips Nelson a note on NASA
Orlando Sentinel

Earlier this week, Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland sent a two-page letter to Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida that attempts to outline her vision for NASA and notes that it is “more important than ever” that the two lawmakers “work on consultation” to consider the White House plan to blast future NASA astronauts into space aboard commercial rockets.

“Our human spaceflight program needs a destination. Since NASA’s creation, it has been a mission-driven agency, and I believe having a clear direction and destination has contributed to NASA’s many successes,” notes Mikulski.

She does not opine on Obama’s decision to scrap Constellation for commercial rockets, other than to note that the station “should be re-supplied with cargo by commercial vehicles.” She makes no note of the possibility of commercial companies launching humans to low-Earth orbit.

Read the full story.