House Appropriations Committee Boosts NASA’s Budget

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Ignoring the Trump’s Administration’s fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) budget request, the House Appropriations Committee has voted to boost NASA’ spending to $19.88 billion, including significant increases to the space agency’s Exploration and Planetary Science programs.

The appropriations bill is an increase of $779.8 million over Trump’s requested budget of $19.09 billion. It would increase NASA’s budget by $218.5 million over the $19.65 billion the space agency is receiving in FY 2017.

NASA’s Exploration program, which includes the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft, would be boosted by $226 million to $4.55 billion under the House measure. The administration had requested $3.93 billion, a cut of $390 million under current spending.

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House Appropriators Recommend Budget Boost for FAA AST

Ignoring the Trump Administration, House appropriators have recommended a budget boost for the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST).

A House bill would provide FAA AST with $21.587 million for FY 2018. The funding would represent an increase of just under $1.8 million over the $19.8 million the office received for the current fiscal year.

The Trump Administration had proposed cutting the FAA AST budget down to $17.9 million, just $100,000 above the FY 2016 funding level.

FAA AST officials have said they need more money for staff to handle an increase in the number of applications for experimental permits and launch licenses. Inspections also have increased as a result of more commercial space activity.

Trump Administration’s NASA Policy Slowly Emerges

Vice President Mike Pence addresses NASA employees, Thursday, July 6, 2017, at the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

By Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vice President Mike Pence’s speech at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center last week was long on rhetoric and short on details, but a few themes and priorities have already emerged in the Trump Administration’s slowly evolving approach to the nation’s civilian space program.

NASA Will Lead Again

In a speech in which he repeatedly praised President Donald Trump, Pence used some variation of the word “lead” a total of 33 times (“leadership” 18 times, “leader(s)” eight times,  “lead”  six times and “leading” once).
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House Appropriations Committee Ignores Trump, Funds NASA at $19.9 Billion

Donald Trump (Credit: Michael Vadon)

The House Appropriations Committee has ignored President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts  in NASA’s budget and has instead approved a bill that would boost the space agency’s budget.

The spending measure would fund the agency at $19.9 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2018, which officials said was a $219 million increase over the enacted level for FY 2017.  Trump has proposed cutting NASA’s budget to just over $19 billion.

Appropriators provided a $226 million boost to the space agency’s exploration budget, which funds the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion crew spacecraft. They also boosted the budget for NASA’s science programs by $94 million.

NASA’s Education Office, which Trump has proposed shutting down, would receive $90 million.

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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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FAA AST Budget: A Million Here, A Million There

faa_logoUPDATE: The commmitttee approved an amendment bringing the budget up to $19.826, which is what the Administration requested.

The House Appropriations Committee has recommended $18.826 million for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST) for FY 2017, which is $1 million below the Obama Administration’s budget request.

The amount is $1 million above the enacted level for FY 2016.

“The recommended funding level will allow the Office of Commercial Space Transportation to add operational personnel to support an increased level of activity in its licensing, permitting and safety inspection functions,” the committee said in draft bill to be marked up on Tuesday.

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House Appropriations Committee Increases NASA’s Budget

NASA LOGOThe House Appropriations Committee has released a spending bill that would give NASA a budget of $19.5 billion for fiscal year 2017, which is $500 million above President Barack Obama’s request. The measure boosts spending for exploration and science programs. Details from the measure are below:

Exploration: $4.183 billion

  • Orion: $1.35 billion
  • Space Launch System: $2 billion
  • Exploration Upper Stage: $250 million of SLS funding
  • Exploration Ground Systems: $429 million
  • Exploration R&D: $404 million

Science: $5.597 billion

  • James Webb Space Telescope: $8 billion cost cap
  • Jupiter Europa orbiter and lander: $260 million
  • Use of the Space Launch System as the launch vehicle or vehicles for the Jupiter Europa mission plan
  • launch of the Jupiter Eruopa orbiter launch no later than 2022 and a lander launch no later than 2024.

Space Operations: $4.89 billion
Space Technology:
$739.2 million
Aeronautics:
$712 million
Education: $115 million
Safety, Security & Mission Services: $2.835 billion
Construction & Environmental Compliance and Restoration: $398 million
Office of Inspector General: $38.1 million

House Appropriations Measure Loads Up SLS & Orion Budgets, Cuts Commercial Crew

Capitol Building
The Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs were the big winners once again as the House Appropriations commerce, justice and science subcommittee marked up its $18.53 billion NASA spending bill for FY 2016. Meanwhile, House appropriators once again cut the request for the Commercial Crew Program despite pleas from NASA that reductions would imperil the start of service by 2017.

Appropriators’ top line budget for NASA is the same as the requested $18.53 billion, which is an increase of about a half billion dollars over last year’s budget. However, the House’s priorities are different from those of President Barack Obama.

The appropriations bill provides SLS, Orion and related programs with just under $4.76 billion, an increase of $546.4 million over the President’s request. Most of that increase is for SLS, which would receive $1.85 billion for FY 2016.

Appropriators would provide Commercial Crew with $1 billion, which is $243 million below the amount requested. Congress has cut budget requests for the program every year, actions the space agency has blamed for delaying the program.

Legislators cut nearly $100 million from NASA’s space technology budget, slicing the amount from $724.8 million to $625 million.

The Science budget was also cut by $51.1 million, although appropriators did not release figures for individual programs. Officials said planetary sciences would receive a boost. That increase would likely come at the expense of Earth Sciences. Republican House legislators have been critical of the Obama Administration’s increase in spending to study Earth.

Update: I forgot to mention the House would provide $140 million for work on a Europa mission. However, NASA would be required to use the Space Launch System for the flight.

NASA FY 2016 BUDGET
(In Millions of Dollars)
PROGRAMADMINISTRATION REQUEST
HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS MARKUP
DIFFERENCE
Science$5,288.6$5,237.5-$51.1
Earth Science
$1,947.3
Planetary Sciences$1,361.2
Astrophysics$709.1
James Webb Space Telescope
$620.0
Heliophysics$651.0
Space Exploration$4,505.9$4,759.3$253.4
Exploration Systems Development
$2,862.9 $3,409.3 $546.4
Space Launch System
$1,356.5 $1,850.0 $493.5
Orion
$1,096.3$1,096.3$0.0
Exploration Ground Systems
$410.1 $410.0 -$0.1
Program Integration
$53.0 $53.0
Commercial Spaceflight$1,243.8$1,000.0 -$243.0
Research & Development$399.2$350.0 -$49.2
Space Operations$4,003.7$3,957.3
 -$46.4
Space Technology$724.8$625.0
 -$99.8
Aeronautics$571.4$600.0
$28.6
Education$88.9$119.0
 $30.1
Safety, Security and Mission Services$2,843.1$2,768.6
 -$74.5
Construction & Environmental Compliance & Restoration$465.3$425.0
 -$40.3
Inspector General$37.4$37.4
 $0.0
TOTALS:$18,529.1$18,529.1$0.0