The House Science and Technology Committee announced Thursday morning the release of “compromise legislative language” for a NASA authorization bill,
presumably (although not explicitly stated) after negotiations with the Senate [I've since been told, second-hand, that this compromise bill was drafted just by the House, and is not necessarily endorsed by the Senate]. The full text of the bill is available, as well as a summary comparing the new version with the one passed by the committee in July. Some highlights:
- The new bill calls for the development of a “Space Launch System” similar to what the Senate proposed, although without the lower minimum launch capacity (as little as 70 tons) in the Senate bill. Instead, this calls for a “scalable capability of lifting payloads of at least 130 metric tons” into LEO, although scalable from what, and by when, isn’t stated; the bill requires at least the capability of servicing the ISS by the end of 2016.
- The compromise bill includes $1.19 billion for exploration technology development as part of an overall $2.67 billion for space technology over the three years of the bill; the earlier version had only $5 million for exploration technology development, in exploration versus space technology.
- The compromise bill includes $1.212 billion for commercial crew development over three years ($412 million in 2011 and $400 million each in 2012 and 2013), far more than the earlier bill ($150 million a year) but still short of the administration’s original request. As expected, the loan guarantee language in the original bill is gone in this one; instead, the funds “shall be allocated at the discretion of the Administrator” to those efforts deemed the highest priority towards the goal of supporting continued utilization of the ISS.
- The compromise bill includes $150 million over three years for exploration robotic precursor missions, while the original bill provided only $5 million.
- The bill also includes language formally authorizing the flight of the “launch-on-need” shuttle mission (STS-135) no earlier than June 1, 2011, unless “the Administrator determines that the level of risk of flying such mission is unacceptable.”