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Six Months Late, Congress Finalizes NASA Budget for FY 2011

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 15, 2011
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Budget Item
FY 11
FY 11
FY 11
Exploration $3.808 billion $3.868 billion $4.263 billion
Heavy-lift Vehicle* $1.8 billion $1.631 billion
Multipurpose Crew Vehicle** $1.2 billion $1.12 billion
CCDEV*** $312 million $312 million $500 million
Space Operations $5.5 billion $5.5 billion $4.888 billion
Science $4.9 billion $5 billion $5 billion
Cross-Agency Support $3.11 billion $3.11 billion $3.11 billion
Education $145.8 million $145.8 million $145.8 million
Aeronautics and Space Technology $535 million $930 million $1.152 billion
Construction and Environmental Compliance $394.3 million $394 $397
TOTAL $18.485 billion $19 billion $19 billion
*  The President’s budget requested $559 million for heavy-lift and propulsion research. That line item was zeroed out by Congress and the funds put toward building the HLV immediately.
**  The Obama Administration canceled Multipurpose Crew Vehicle but later reinstated it in the budget as an ISS crew rescue vehicle.
*** CCDEV funding is not specified in the measure passed this week by Congress, which likely means it has not changed. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office has said that the funding level is at $312 million this year.

So, what does this all mean? A few key takeaways:

  • The budget is more than half a billion below the level that the President requested and Congress authorized in September and $241 million lower than in FY 2010.
  • NASA can move ahead with awarding about $270 million in grants for the Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. Look for that announcement soon.
  • The space agency is now free to formally cancel the Constellation program with the removal of the Shelby provision that prevented the agency from doing so.
  • Constellation lives on with $1.2 billion going to the Multi-Purpose Crew (the spacecraft previously known as Orion) and $1.8 billion for a heavy-lift vehicle (aka, Spawn of Ares V).
  • The biggest loser in the budget was the Obama Administration’s ambitious technology development effort, with funds going to pay for the MPCV and HLV. However, NASA officials say they have authority to move funds around within the budget.
  • The funding is sufficient to allow NASA to complete an additional space shuttle flight by Atlantis in late June.
  • The budget includes a measure prohibiting any cooperation with China unless Congress passes a law allowing it.