Congress, NASA

ISS commercial resupply rescission?

A reader pointed out this list of programs cut or terminated in the House Appropriations Committee’s version of a FY10 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill. This list includes not just programs in the FY10 bill but also rescissions in the FY09 appropriations (something easy, at least for me, to overlook). One of the biggest rescissions is a $113.9 million cut in NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program, with an odd reason given: “program phase out”. No further details are available; while the text of the bill is now on the committee’s web site, that level of detail would be in the committee report and not the bill itself.

14 comments to ISS commercial resupply rescission?

  • Hmmmm…..

    I wonder who predicted this just a few days ago……..

    Mr. Predictor knows……..

  • Mr. Predictor never responded to my earlier comments

    And Mr. Predictor would actually have a basis to stand, if this were the WH request, not the CJS.

  • Sheridan

    Is this another of Shelby’s doings?

    Screw everyone else as long as its in Alabama’s interests?

  • Mark R. Whittington

    “Is this another of Shelby’s doings?

    Screw everyone else as long as its in Alabama’s interests?”

    Since Shelby is a Senator and this took place in the House, likely not.

  • richardb

    Its possible BA and LMT might have asked for the recission from some friendly Congressmen but its just as likely the House senses Nasa is being served up to a budget banquet and its a free for all to pick that carcass clean.
    Augustine Commission looks to me as nothing more than a fig leaf for Obama to justify substantial cuts to Nasa. Perhaps a few Congressman feel the same way and are testing the strength of Nasa’s support in the Democratic leadership.

  • red

    That’s strange … if there’s a “program phase-out”, what’s going to take its place? I can’t imagine they want to buy more cargo flights from Russia on top of the crew flights.

  • wtf

    can we do something about this?

    im tired of the government doing shit like this without anyone raising a finger.

  • red

    In addition to this move only appealing to Congressional representatives of, uh, Russia, and perhaps Europe and Japan, it also seems to go against the interests of Maryland (Taurus) and Florida (Falcon). I don’t think it would get very far in the Senate.

    However, for fun let’s assume this comment by Gary Hudson on Transterrestrial Musings is right: “I expect Sen. Shelby can influence a House markup simply by trading favors.”

    In that case, let’s keep COTS A-C and following contracts the way they are, but on that condition let’s also open up a new round of COTS A-C with 1 more winner. This round would emphasize quick solutions … favoring rockets made in Decatur, Alabama. Also open up a seriously-funded round of COTS-D for 2-3 winners that also features quick solutions as an important criteria.

    There! Everybody’s happy, everybody’s friends again.

    Note that this has nothing to do with lunar missions, so the fate of Ares isn’t hurt. If Ares 1 had to support ISS because COTS D fails, that’s always been understood to come out of the lunar mission’s budget (Ares V).

  • red

    I’d like to mention this comment about the cuts in this earlier Space Politics post:

    “1) they once again zero funding for new Centennial Challenges plus
    two other Innovative Partnerships programs, one of which buys
    commercial microgravity and (in the future) suborbital SLV science

    For Centennial Challenges, it seems to me that there’s a problem with getting Congressional support for new prizes for a couple reasons.

    One is that we, and Congressional representatives, don’t know exactly what prize(s) would be funded if a certain amount of funding were granted. For “Future Prizes”, we see at

    that there are some general suggestions, but there’s nothing specific:

    “Pending future funding, prizes are envisioned for new Challenges to support NASA Missions and to benefit the Nation.

    For example:

    Alternative Energy
    Lunar Science
    Long-duration Spaceflight, radiation shielding, life support
    Clean, quiet aircraft”

    I’d strongly suggest they pick a small set of ideas as the top priorities to fund, develop those ideas, and publicize them. Then supporters that would benefit from specific ideas may emerge.

    The other problem, from a Congressional funding point of view, is that there is nothing geographically specific about the prizes. It might be worthwhile to change that. For example:

    Lunar All Terrain Vehicle Prize:
    An earlier version of this was proposed to be held at the X PRIZE Cup, but it’s not clear that event will be continued. At any rate, you could stipulate in the rules (or even the funding bill) that the competitions be held in association with the Great Moonbuggy Race held in Huntsville, Alabama. You could make similar rules for a rocketry prize – stipulate that the competitions be held in association with the Student Launch Initiative, also in Alabama (MSFC). They wouldn’t necessarily have to be at the exact same time and place – maybe you go to one one day, and the other the next. The prize funds might even include some money to set up the actual events (money to be spent in that locale).

    Ansari X PRIZE Follow-on Prize:
    This would be combined with the Reusable Space Vehicle Industry Prize from Florida (if that is still being developed). We can be fairly sure the rules of the Florida prize will benefit Florida, and thus be supported by Florida Senators and Congresspeople.

    Suborbital Remote Sensing Prize:
    This would be for using reusable suborbital rockets for Earth remote sensing purposes. It could be stipulated that the suborbital data gathering be done in conjunction with the following spacecraft developed by the Goddard Space Flight Center: A, B, C, D. The purpose would be to refine the accuracy of the satellite data by comparing the measurements from the sats with the instruments mounted on the suborbital craft – i.e. make those GSFC satellites more valuable. Along with and inseparable from the prize funding, the bill would include grant funding for, say, the University of Maryland and the University of Miami for work on the resulting data.

    Airship Prize:
    This is for improved airship technology. There would be a race in the style of the Automotive X PRIZE that starts at, say, Maryland, goes to Florida, and ends in Alabama (for example).

    I think you get the idea. Prizes for work actually done in space might stipulate a certain amount of IV&V work done in West Virginia. The location of events, meetings, award ceremonies, related research grants, and launches could all be made geographically-specific, and could be tailored to the Congressional powers-that-be in the space legislation world.

    I don’t mean that you would do all of the above in a single prize – that would dilute the benefits of the competitions too much. I’m just trying to point out a variety of ways these prizes could be made a bit more appealing to local political interests that aren’t interested in space innovations for their own sake. Yes, it’s a bit porky, but perhaps that’s the price that needs to be paid to play.

  • Stephanie

    The $113 million rescission from the FY’09 Commercial Crew and Cargo budget, based on my review, would appear to still leave enough funds to cover milestone payments for both Orbital and SpaceX.

    Furthermore, the FY’10 request for Commercial Crew and Cargo is NOT $0, it is $39.1M. The House CJS report says that there are $0 “cuts from” NASA’s FY’10 request for Commercial Crew and Cargo.

    As for “program phase out”, the COTS program was always intended to be phased out once all the milestones were met. The next steps are contracts for cargo (and hopefully) crew delivery services to the ISS – not just demonstrations.

  • realrockets

    I believe that Alan Lindenmoyer stated at the ISDC conference in May that the COTS office had paid Orbital $100M of the $170M total (which leaves $70M for milestone payments to go), and that they had paid SpaceX $234M of the $278M total (which leaves $44M for milestone payments to go).

    Adding the “to go” amounts you get $114M – which is the exact amount of the 2009 rescission. Unless there is a plus-up in 2010 budget to cover the $113.9M there is no funding for future milestones – which may make it very difficult for Orbital and SpaceX to continue their development and to get ready for CRS missions.

    However, if this action allows NASA to eliminate the requirement to perform demonstrations to ISS under COTS then it would save them both, especially SpaceX, a lot of money. The 3 SpaceX demo missions may cost them around $100M (propbably more) and the one demo that Orbital has to perform under COTS may cost them around $150M. As long as this budget action does not impact the awarded CRS contracts ($1.6B for SpaceX, and $1.9B for Orbital) this may actually help them, as long as NASA changes the funding restriction in CRS that caps payments at %30 of active missions until “ISS integration” is achieved (which is what NASA would have to do – either that or terminate CRS altogether). I wonder what they all are going to do?

  • Major Tom

    The $113.9M rescission is a cut from the $150M that COTS received in the FY 2009 stimulus bill. That funding was for NASA activities to prepare for a COTS D (or similar) effort. The rescission does not affect funding for the COTS A-C activities already underway at Space-X and OSC for which $158 million was provided through the regular FY09 appropriations bill. The rescission only potentially delays COTS D, and even then, it’s not clear to what extent the activities in the stimulus bill (e.g., new requirements, new ISS docking interface, etc.) were actually needed to enable COTS D or were just make-work for NASA civil servants.

    It is true that the current COTS program ramps down in FY 2010 — the rescission does not affect the $39.1M in the FY 2010 bill for the final Space-X and OSC COTS A-C milestones. So under the current plan, the COTS program actually does “phase out”, to be followed by CRS contracts for actual ISS cargo transport services. The House mark could be intended to reinforce that phase-out, indicating a lack of interest in COTS D or additional COTS A-C activities. However, I’d guess that NASA simply couldn’t spend the additional stimulus funding on the timescale required by the stimulus bill, and thus the House rescinded whatever COTS D funding (and a lot of other activities from the stimulus bill) that NASA had not obligated by some key date. Had NASA simply applied the $150M to activate the COTS D option in the Space-X Space Act Agreements, instead of spending the $150M on in-house activities that required longer timeframes to be defined and get funding obligated, NASA would not have lost $113.9M to the rescission.

    Although the rescission is no loss for COTS A-C and potentially no great loss for COTS D, what is sad about the whole Constellation funding picture in Congress is that the likes of Sen. Shelby and Sen. Nelson have wasted time this spring quibbling over $150M in COTS stimulus funding already passed in FY09, when they and their staff should have been watching for and working to preempt the House’s ~$700M cut to overall Constellation spending in the FY10 appropriations bill. If congressmen with human space flight centers really care about Constellation, then they need to be paying attention to and trying to impact the bills currently working their way through Congress — not bills that were signed into law months ago.

    Of course, until NASA can reduce the error bars in Constellation costs and schedule (or whatever the Augustine Review recommends to replace Constellation) to under tens of billions of dollars and half-decades, a ~$700M cut isn’t going to change the outcome anyway. But that’s another thread.


  • […] House Appropriations Committee document earlier this week that appeared to show a $113.9 million rescission in NASA’s FY9 budget for COTS got a lot of people up in arms and wondering exactly happened. The committee hasn’t provided […]

  • […] ISS commercial resupply rescission? – Space Politics […]

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