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Senate Budget Includes Funding for SLS/Orion Ground Infrastructure

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
September 16, 2011
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Vehicle Assembly Building at Kennedy Space Center

In addition to spending $3 billion on the Space Launch System and Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, the Senate’s proposed budget directs NASA to also focus on the ground infrastructure required to support these programs using different parts of the space agency’s budget. The budget areas include ground operations, rocket test facilities, and the 21st Century Launch Complex Initiative. Precisely how much money from these budgets will go toward funding infrastructure for SLS/Orion as well as commercial crew ventures depends upon future NASA action.

A summary drawn from the Senate’s budget proposal follows.

SLS/Orion MPCV Overview

Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle: 1,200,000,000
Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle System: 800,000,000

SLS (HLV): Initial human capability by 2017, using fixed price contracts for components wherever possible. The system shall be evolvable to lift the necessary elements for missions beyond low Earth orbit in order to extend human exploration capabilities. The program shall be managed under a strict cost cap of $11,500,000,000 through fiscal year 2017.

Orion MPCV: The vehicle shall be capable of being launched on the heavy lift launch vehicle and may also provide alternative access to low Earth orbit, including the ISS by fiscal year 2014, using fixed price contracts for components wherever possible. The program shall be managed under a strict cost cap of $5,500,000,000 through fiscal year 2017.

Supporting Programs

21st Century Launch Complex —The Committee provides the full budget request of $168,000,000 for the 21st Century Launch Complex. This program is intended to revitalize the aging infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center and other NASA facilities to support the human space flight program. NASA should place a priority on the use of funds for future ground operations and to improve only NASA-owned facilities for launch vehicles intended to serve NASA missions, including the heavy lift launch vehicle system. Funding for the 21st Century Launch Complex may be used at other NASA flight facilities that are currently scheduled to launch cargo to the International Space Station under the COTS program, to upgrade the launch infrastructure to improve efficiency and safety. NASA shall provide the Committee a 5-year plan for this funding within 60 days of the date of enactment of this act.

Ground Operations — In fiscal year 2013 and beyond, NASA shall identify ground operations related to the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle and the heavy lift launch vehicle system separately from the funding to develop those systems. NASA may request these funds within the Exploration account or the Space Operations account, not both. The Committee notes that the purposes authorized in section 305 of Public Law 111–267 include both ground operations and multi-purpose infrastructure projects that support both crew and cargo launches.

Funding for Construction.—NASA continues to request funds for construction of facilities within both the Space Operations and the Exploration accounts. For fiscal year 2012, the Committee has granted NASA authority to transfer funds for construction into the Construction and Environmental Restoration Account. For fiscal year 2013 and beyond, NASA should not request construction funds in its other accounts. The fiscal year 2013 budget should clearly identify any construction requests related to the 21st Century Launch Complex, the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle, and the heavy lift launch vehicle system, including related ground and mission operations and test facility construction projects.

Rocket test facilities — Within 30 days of enactment of this act, NASA shall submit to the Committees on Appropriations a report detailing its plans to use and rehabilitate, if necessary, NASA owned systems-level rocket test facilities. The report should include plans for systems-level testing of the Space Launch System, an evaluation of potential commercial uses of such facilities, and a description of resources needed in fiscal year 2012.

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