On Thursday the full Senate Appropriations Committee approved a Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, just a day after the CJS subcommittee marked up the bill in a brief session. The text of the legislation is not yet available but the summary of the legislation released by the committee included this discussion of the NASA section of the bill:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – The bill provides $19 billion for NASA, $278 million above the Fiscal Year 2010 level and equal to the President’s request. The total funding includes $1.6 billion for Space Shuttle operations; $2.78 billion for Space Station operations; $3 billion for development of the next generation Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle; $5 billion for science; and $904 million for aeronautics and space technology research. The bill restructures NASA’s human spaceflight programs, providing for a new heavy lift launch vehicle and crew capsule for exploring beyond low-Earth orbit, extending the life of the International Space Station through 2020, supporting the burgeoning commercial space industry, investing in new technology development, and allowing one additional Space Shuttle flight, if determined to be safe.
During the hearing Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) thanked the CSJ subcommittee chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), for adding $27 million for a flagship exploration technology program. “Candidly, I was very disappointed to see that the technology funding, which was the cornerstone of the president’s budget, is really substantially, some what say drastically, reduced. Exploration technology cut $502 million, robotic precursor missions cut by $80 million, space tech programs cut by $247 million. These cuts are going to cause 200 immediate job losses in my state alone,” she said.
“I acknowledge the validity of the senator from California’s concerns,” Mikulski responded, “but we face a very constrained budget environment, and also we started off the year with a very difficult presentation by the administration that initially canceled the human spaceflight program as we knew it.” Mikulski continued: “Working with Senator Shelby, we really did try to find a path forward that kept a balanced space program in human spaceflight, space technology, space science, and also reliable transportation systems.” She said she would be willing to work with Feinstein as the bill moves forward to address the Californian’s concerns.
Some senators hailed elements of the bill that support “development of the next generation Crew Launch Vehicle and Crew Exploration Vehicle”. “The funding secured today for NASA will ensure that America remains the world leader in manned spaceflight by jumpstarting the development and construction of a new Heavy Lift Vehicle, while also continuing the development of the Orion Crew Capsule,” said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana, home of the Michoud Assembly Facility. “This is not only great news for the direction of the space program but will ensure that NASA’s skilled workforces, in locations like Michoud, will be able to resume work on a NASA-built Heavy Lift Vehicle in the near-term.”
Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) also praised the bill in a statement because that new launch vehicle, he said, will use solid rocket motors manufactured in Utah. “This legislation is not only significant because it rejects President Obama’s failed vision for human spaceflight, but is also a major step toward preserving the solid rocket industrial base and thousands of jobs in Utah.”
Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), ranking member of the CJS subcommittee, also supported the bill, while taking some swings at commercial space elements of the White House’s budget proposal. “The overarching point is simple: No so-called commercial space company has ever carried anything successfully to the space station, much less safely launch and return a human being. We cannot risk human lives or the entire future of the space program by deploying an unproven commercial crew concept,” he said. “The CJS bill solidifies American’s human space flight program by funding a robust heavy lift vehicle based on demonstrated technological reality.”