The White House has consistently sought more funding for the Commercial Crew Program than Congress has been willing to give. In 2013, the administration asked for more than $800 million and wound up with $525 million. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has said repeatedly that Congress must meet the request, or the 2017 flight date will slip.
The House Science Committee's draft bill calls on NASA to make sure that does not happen. The bill would require the space agency to evaluate the Commercial Crew Program's prospects for making the 2017 deadline under annual funding levels ranging from $500 million to $800 million. The bill also establishes strict reporting requirements for the Commercial Crew Program, requiring NASA to brief Congress on the effort every 90 days, beginning 180 days after the bill becomes law.
In a related provision, the bill places a $50 million cap - to be exceeded only with permission from Congress - on Space Act Agreements, an alternative procurement mechanism NASA uses routinely. The current round of the Commercial Crew Program is funded with $1.1 billion worth of Space Act Agreements. However, NASA has already said it does not plan to use Space Act Agreements for the program's next development phase.
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An administration official panned the House proposal, calling it a "non-starter." The official asked for anonymity to speak candidly. Particularly objectionable, this person said, was the proposal to cut Earth Science and kill the asteroid retrieval mission.
The House subcommittee's bill would authorize about $1.2 billion for Earth Science in 2014 and 2015 - about 30 percent less than the division's budget in 2013 and 2012. The main beneficiary from this rebalancing would be the Planetary Science Division, which runs NASA's robotic solar system exploration program.
Conversely, the bill would authorize planetary science for $1.5 billion in funding in 2014 and 2015, the same level the division received for 2012. NASA has proposed reducing planetary science spending for 2013, funding it at about $1.2 billion even though Congress provided a larger appropriation in the The Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 (H.R. 933), which became law March 26.
Budget proposal rundown Rounded to the nearest million, authorized spending levels for major NASA spending accounts in 2014 and 2015 under the House Science space subcommittee's proposal are:
Top Line: $16.865 billion, about even with NASA's 2013 appropriation and roughly 5.1 percent less than what NASA got in 2012 in its last unsequestered spending bill.
Exploration Systems: $4.007 billion, 8.9 percent more than what NASA has proposed spending in 2013 under an operating plan it delivered to Congress in May, and 8.1 percent more than in 2012.
Space Operations: $3.818 billion, 2.5 percent more than the NASA-adjusted level for 2013 and 8.8 percent less than in 2012.
Science Mission Directorate: $4.627 billion, 3.2 percent more than in 2013 and 8.8 percent less than in 2012.
Cross-Agency Support: $2.6 billion, 4.1 percent less than 2013 and 13.2 percent lower than in 2012.
Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate: $566 million, 6.8 percent more than in 2013 and 0.6 percent less than 2012.
Space Technology Mission Directorate: $500 million, 21.9 percent lower than in 2013 and 12.9 percent lower than in 2012. The bill would transfer some of the human spaceflight research and development funding now managed by this directorate back to the Exploration Systems account.
Education Mission Directorate: $125 million, 7.8 percent more than in 2013 and 8.2 percent less than in 2012.
Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $587 million, 9.3 percent less than 2013 appropriation and 18.7 percent more than in 2012.
Inspector General: $35 million, about flat compared with 2013 and 8.6 percent lower than 2012.
Proposed authorized funding for SLS and Orion in 2014 and 2015 under the House subcommittee's bill are:
SLS: $1.772 billion, of which $1.454 billion would be for rocket development and support work, and $318 million would be for SLS ground systems. That puts vehicle development and support about 6.1 percent higher than in the 2013 operating plan and 2.9 percent lower than in 2012. Ground systems, meanwhile, would be authorized for 15.2 percent less than in 2013 and 4.4 percent more than in 2012.
Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle: $1.2 billion, 7.7 percent more than in 2013 and even with 2012.
The This story was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry. Article on SPACE.com.
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