Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Budget Could Extend Shuttle Deadline

Congressional budget planners have agreed to funding that might allow NASA to fly out remaining space shuttle flights after the current 2010 deadline.

The extra $2.5 billion needed in the 2011 fiscal year wouldn't be appropriated until next year.

But Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, whose district includes Kennedy Space Center, said plans for the funding effectively eliminated an "arbitrary" retirement deadline and would benefit Kennedy Space Center workers facing layoffs next year.

"This budget is a significant step towards maintaining safety, minimizing the spaceflight gap, and preserving the highly skilled workforce at Kennedy Space Center and throughout Central Florida," she said in a statement.

The full House and Senate could vote on the budget plan as early as today, according to Kosmas' office, or later this week.

Then it's up to appropriatons subcommittees to determine actual funding levels later this summer for fiscal year 2010, and next year for 2011.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson had won inclusion of the additional 2011 funding in the Senate's budget proposal, but it was not in the House proposal, which Kosmas voted against.

According to a statement from the joint budget conference, the funding was added "in anticipation that the funding is needed for the remaining eight space shuttle missions to safely fly and to complete the construction and equipping of the international space station."

Nelson and Kosmas, among others, argued that a hard deadline at the end of 2010 would create schedule pressure that could increase risks to mission safety.

President Obama's budget blueprint in February had called for the addition of one shuttle flight only if it could be flown safely by the end of 2010. Funding for that mission - which would bring to nine the number currently left to fly - is not yet approved.

NASA and other federal agencies are expected to release detailed 2010 budgets early next month.

NASA is targeting a May 11 liftoff of shuttle Atlantis to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The other eight planned missions would complete assembly of the International Space Station.

IMAGE NOTE: On March 28, space shuttle Discovery touches down on Runway 15 of the Shuttle Landing Facility at Kennedy Space Center, concluding the 13-day, 5.3-million mile journey of the STS-119 mission to the International Space Station. Onboard are NASA astronauts Lee Archambault, commander; Tony Antonelli, pilot; Steve Swanson, Richard Arnold, Joseph Acaba, John Phillips and Sandra Magnus, all mission specialists. The main landing gear touched down at 3:13:17 p.m. (EDT). Credit: NASA.


Anonymous said...

I think there's an error in the text. The extra mission is for that telescope. If there's 9 including the extra one, then you have one for Hubble, seven (not eight) for the ISS and one for the telescope.

Todd Halvorson said...

Actually, it's correct. NASA plans eight more International Space Station assembly and outfitting missions and one Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission. The eight station missions include one to deliver a particle physics experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the station. That mission has been authorized by Congress but no money has been appropriated yet to fly it.

Anonymous said...

A budget resolution is not the same as an appropriations bill, and FY11 is over a year away, so this is pretty much only symbolic.

Mark Lopa said...

Very good news...takes the pressure to get nine launches in 16 months. Maybe someone did learn from Challenger and Columbia. Go figure.