Thursday, September 15, 2011

SpaceX applauds commercial space funding

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk today applauded a Senate committee's approval of $500 million in NASA funding next year to help develop commercial crew taxis for trips to the International Space Station.

"The investments made by this legislation will accelerate efforts to return America to launching astronauts and reduce our dependency on Russia," Musk said in a statement. "With the failure of the Soyuz booster last month, this effort is more important than ever."

The proposal from the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations is significantly more than the flat funding of $312 million offered by the House, but well below the roughly $800 million President Obama propsoed for the 2012 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

SpaceX is one of four companies that split roughly $270 million this year in the second round of NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program, or CCDev.

The other companies were Blue Origin, The Boeing Co. and Sierra Nevada Space Systems, each of which are developing a capsule or space plane intended to launch with astronauts atop an expendable rocket.

NASA hopes to have more than one vehicle ready to fly crews by 2015 or 2016. Until then, Russia's Soyuz spacecraft offer astronauts' only access to the station.

"The United States needs alternatives for carrying American astronauts, and we need them as soon as possible," said Musk.

The Senate spending plan would fund NASA at $17.9 billion next year, down about u3 percent from this year.

About $3 billion would go to NASA's newly announced heavy-lift rocket program, which won't launch a crew before 2021. Another $530 million would keep alive the James Webb Space Telescope, which House appropriators sought to cancel.

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