Thursday, April 14, 2011

Congress set to vote on reduced NASA budget

Congress today is expected to vote on a budget for the current fiscal year that cuts overall spending by $38 billion and NASA funding by $241 million compared to last year. The deal last Friday averted a government shutdown and would fund operations through September.

The compromise budget funds the agency with $18.48 billion in 2011, down from $18.72 billion in 2010 and the $19 billion that President Obama requested and Congress authorized last year. 

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, said earlier this week that NASA had "dodged a bullet" with its relatively small cut, which preserves enough money to pay for a final shuttle flight planned in late June.

The bill approves $3.8 billion for Exploration programs (see p. 212), specifically including not less than $1.2 billion for a "multipurpose crew vehicle" (aka Orion) and not less than $1.8 billion for a heavy-lift rocket "which shall have a lift capability not less than 130 tons and which shall have an upper stage and other core elements developed simultaneously."

The bill does not specify totals for other programs, but according to Nelson's office would maintain authorized funding of $312 million for commercial crew and about $400 million for infrastructure modernization.

Gone is the so-called "Shelby provision" inserted into last's year's appropriations bill by Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican, that prevented NASA from officially cancelling the Constellation program.

Check out this fact sheet with more detail from Space Policy Online.

summary released Monday by the Senate Appropriations Committee says the agreement preserves a balanced NASA portfolio and holds "NASA's feet to the fire to build the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle and the heavy lift Space Launch System."

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