A Closer Look at NASA’s Proposed Human Exploration Plan

Credit: NASA

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

NASA would launch the first element of a human-tended Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway in 2022 under a proposed exploration plan that would make use of commercial and international partnerships.

A power and propulsion module would be followed soon afterward by habitation, airlock, and logistics modules. The gateway would serve as a base for astronauts to explore the moon for the first time since Apollo 17 lifted off from the surface in 1972.

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House Appropriations Committee Sets NASA Spending at $19.5 Billion

 NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)
NASA astronaut Suni Williams exits a test version of the Orion spacecraft in the agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. The testing is helping NASA identify the best ways to efficiently get astronauts out of the spacecraft after deep space missions. (Credit: NASA)

The House Appropriations Committee is marking up a FY 2017 spending bill today that would boost NASA’s spending by $215 million to $19.5 billion dollars. The amount is roughly $500 million more than the $19 billion requested by the Obama Administration.

Appropriators have zeroed out money for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM), instead instructing the space agency to focus on lumar missions applicable to sending astronauts to Mars.

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Administration Opposes Senate Provisions on Commercial Crew, Europa Mission

Credit: Matt Wade
Credit: Matt Wade

In a policy statement issued today, the White House took issue with two objectives near and dear to Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL): crippling NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and boosting its Space Launch System (SLS).

“The Administration appreciates the Committee’s support for the Commercial Crew program, but has concerns about language that would seek to apply accounting requirements unsuitable for a firm, fixed-price acquisition, likely increasing the program’s cost and potentially delaying its schedule,” the Administration said in the statement, which covers the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2015.

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CSF Wants More Funding for Commercial Crew, Space Technology

nasa_commercial_crew_spacesuit
Commercial Spaceflight Federation Statement
on House Appropriations Committee FY15 NASA Budget

Washington D.C. – Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee released its Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, allocating Federal spending for several agencies including NASA. The bill provided a welcome increase in NASA’s funding.

“I’m encouraged to see Congress prioritizing NASA’s mission and supporting it with strong funding,” said CSF President Michael Lopez-Alegria. “Unfortunately, the increase was not evenly distributed and two key areas, the Commercial Crew Program and Space Technology, were below requested levels. We hope that as the appropriations process continues, Congress will be able to increase the funding for these key programs.”

In the bill, the Space Technology Mission Directorate is provided $620 million, which is below the requested funding of $705.5 million. Specific appropriations for the Commercial Crew Program have not yet been released, however the bill implicitly cuts a group of programs that includes the Commercial Crew Program by $80 million. Further  details on specific programs are not available until the committee report is released. Those details could affect the levels of funding and the success or failure of the programs.

“The Space Technology Mission Directorate produces the innovations that NASA needs to remain the world leader in spaceflight,” said CSF Chairman Stuart Witt. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program offers the most cost-effective, safe source for routine flights to low-Earth orbit from American soil. Reduced funding for Commercial Crew will delay the process of returning astronauts to space on American vehicles and prolong our dependence on Russian vehicles.”

House Appropriations Subcommittee Approves $17.9 Billion Budget for NASA

Capitol Building
The Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Subcommittee has approved a $17.9 billion budget measure to fund NASA in FY 2015. The amount is $250 million more than the space agency is receiving in FY 2014. The measure now goes to the full Appropriations Committee.

The table below shows funding by program.

 ProgramAmountNotes
Science$5.193 Billion$42 million above FY 2014 enacted level
Exploration$4.167 BillionSee note below
Space Operations$3.885 Billion
Safety, Security & Mission Services$2.779 Billion
Space Technology  $620 Million
Aeronautics  $666 Million$100 million above FY 2014 enacted level
Construction, Environmental Compliance  $446 Million
Education  $106 Million
Office of Inspector General   $34 Million

Exploration Budget: $4.167 Billion

Space Launch System: $1.915 billion
Orion Crew Vehicle: $1.14 billion ($1.6 million for launch vehicle development; $315 million for exploration ground systems)
Commercial Crew: $785 million

The overall exploration budget is $54 million above that enacted for FY 2014. The Commercial Crew program would receive $89 million more than $696 million it is receiving for FY 2014. However, the requested amount is $63 million less than the $848 million requested by the Obama Administration.

The House and Senate Appropriations Budgets for NASA

NASA LOGOby Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The Senate and House Appropriations Committees have put forth significantly different spending plans for NASA in FY 2014.  The Senate would fund NASA at $18 billion, a nearly $300 million increase over  President Barack Obama’s $17.7 billion request. The House would cut the request by $1.1 billion to just under $16.6 billion.

The two house of Congress have major disagreements over several funding priorities. The House significantly reduces the Administration’s request for the Commercial Crew Program and prohibits NASA from spending money on its proposed Asteroid Retrieval Mission until the space agency develops a more detailed plan. The House also makes a deep cut in the Earth Science budget.

The Senate makes a much smaller cut in commercial crew, and it is silent on the asteroid plan.  It also provides a small increase in the President’s request for Earth science.

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NASA Selects 300 SBIR, STTR Projects

NASA PR — NASA has selected 300 small business proposals to enter into negotiations for possible contract awards through the agency’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs.

These competitive awards-based programs encourage U.S. small businesses and research institutions to engage in federal research, development and commercialization. The programs enable teams to explore technological potential while providing the incentive to profit from new commercial products and services.

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CSF Letter Supports Full Funding of NASA Space Technology Program


CSF PR – Washington, D.C., Monday, September 12, 2011 – The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is pleased to support a letter on NASA Space Technology funding, signed by 45 companies, nonprofits, and research universities, which was delivered to Congress last week.

The letter states, “The Space Technology program is a critical investment in NASA’s future, our nation’s future in space, and America’s technology leadership position in the world.”  The letter notes, “We write in support of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Space Technology program for fiscal year (FY) 2012. We urge you to support the program at a level of at least $535 million plus costs to cover the NASA labor transition. … As recognized by Congress in the America COMPETES Act, our nation’s economic competitiveness and high standard of living are based on decades of investment in innovation, research, and technology. Through space technology, NASA will stimulate the economy and build America’s global economic competitiveness through the creation of new products and services, new businesses and industries, and high‐quality, sustainable jobs across NASA Centers, universities, and both small and large businesses.”
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