Congress, NASA

Senate appropriators to mark up NASA spending bill Tuesday

Congress is returning from spring break this week, and at least in the Senate they’re wasting no time getting down to business. The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up its proposed appropriations bill for FY 2013 on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30 pm EDT. That appropriations bill includes NASA as well as NOAA and NSF. It will be the first chance to see what appropriators will do with the administration’s budget request; things to watch include funding for NASA’s planetary sciences program (cut by 20% in the administration’s request) and commercial crew funding (increased to nearly $830 million in the request).

The markup is taking place far earlier than last year, when the CJS subcommittee did not mark up its FY12 appropriations bill until September 14—the same day that NASA formally unveiled the design of the Space Launch System (SLS) at a press conference on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. In last month’s CJS subcommittee hearing on the NASA budget proposal, subcommittee chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) did mention the markup could come as soon as mid to late April.

As Marcia Smith notes, the timing of the markup is a little bit awkward for NASA and the DC space community, as many officials will be in Colorado Springs this week for the National Space Symposium. It’s the second year in a row, though, that Mikulski’s subcommittee has stepped on the symposium’s toes: last year the subcommittee held its hearing on NASA’s FY12 budget proposal the same week as the symposium.

21 comments to Senate appropriators to mark up NASA spending bill Tuesday

  • SpaceColonizer

    “Quick! Let’s appropriate this thing before SpaceX’s COTS launch so it’ll be easier to justify giving commercial crew the shaft!” -Appropriators

    Let me look into my crystal ball here… SLS and JWST get everything they need and maybe more. Planetary sciences gets some of it’s money back with a “mandate” for NASA to “seriously reconsider reentering ExoMars negotiations with ESA.” And Commercial crew… no more than $500m, with a possible “strong suggestion” that NASA “down select to no more than” two competitors. I’m counting that as six predictions, and I expect no less than 4 of them to hold true.

  • A M Swallow

    The applications for Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) have been entered. Now NASA has to work out which ones it can afford. I hope the applicant firms have asked their state’s Senator to ensure sufficient money is allocated.

    In this no company is safe. For instance NASA could consider that Boeing does not need a grant because being big it can afford to pay for the CCiCap itself. Alternatively a small firm may not be able to afford sufficient campaign contributions.

    With the approaching elections I hope the firms have worked out the number of jobs involved, both short term and long term.

  • Malmesbury

    Just realised what the politicians were talking about when the were saying Commercial Crew competitors should share/merge and down select -

    Dragon on Atlas 5 – done under FAR.

    From the point of view of the pols it would sound like a nice compromise. Get rid of that nasty competition, give a big junk of the project to Boeing, get total control and throw SpaceX a bone.

    The danger for Orion is if 2 or more Comerical Crew vehicles fly before 2017. One would mean that they could claim that Orion was backup – insane though it would be in terms of cost/trashing any schedule using SLS. Remember that there will be very, very few SLS flights.

    Too many commercial crew vehicles and someone might start asking how much it costs to modify one or 2 for BEO…

  • vulture4

    Two superb predictions from Colonizer and Swallow! I would only add that Senator Wolf will threaten to slash the NASA budget if anyone in the agency so much as eats at a Chinese restaurant.

  • vulture4

    Sorry, Wolf is a representative and won’t be in this hearing. My bad.

  • BeanCounterfromDownunder

    Boeing won’t do CCiCap without NASA funding. Read that as a given, not a threat since there’s no ongoing contract at this point.
    SpaceX have consistently said they’d do it with or without NASA, just take longer without NASA or so they originally thought. Wonder if they’ve changed their tune now they’ve had some experience.
    SpaceX flies successfully either April 30 or May and things change. Won’t be the same game at all. SpaceX servicing ISS under CRS. Operational finally! Systems being proven on each flight. At least one CRS maybe two this year. That’ll be 4 or 5 F9 flights proving the system.

  • amightywind

    From the point of view of the pols it would sound like a nice compromise. Get rid of that nasty competition, give a big junk of the project to Boeing, get total control and throw SpaceX a bone.

    The CST-100/Atlas V launch configuration is already a compromise between Boeing and Lockmart. Boeing has already announced that its schedule can be accelerated – with SpaceX’s share of CCDev funding that is.

    …if anyone in the agency so much as eats at a Chinese restaurant.

    To prevent our wayward and senseless NASA leadership cavorting with our enemies and handing them our technology.

  • Coastal Ron

    amightywind wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 8:20 am

    To prevent our wayward and senseless NASA leadership cavorting with our enemies and handing them our technology.

    If China is our enemy, then a quick FBI search of your house would reveal that you have been aiding and abetting the enemy by providing them financial backing (i.e. buying products made by them) – in a word, treason.

    So have you been committing treason, or just being factually wrong?

  • vulture4

    amightywind said: “To prevent our wayward and senseless NASA leadership cavorting with our enemies and handing them our technology.”

    HP, GE, GM, Apple, IBM, and of course Walmart are already racing head-over-heels to transfer their latest manufacturing technology to China in order to bump up their short-term profits. If you have an argument, you should take it up with them. It would be pointless for China to “steal” the obsolescent technology of the ISS which is in any case already shared with the Russians.

    Inviting China to join the ISS program would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers. By working together, we can learn to live together. The US cannot afford another half century of cold war.

  • amightywind

    Inviting China to join the ISS program would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers. By working together, we can learn to live together. The US cannot afford another half century of cold war.

    Even while China tortures dissidents? Even while they threaten their neighbor’s territorial integrity in the South Chine Sea? Relations with China should proceed with realism. There are too many in the US government like you who would naively play fast and loose with US security and values. As Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.”

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 12:24 pm

    Inviting China to join the ISS program would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers. By working together, we can learn to live together. >>

    No it wont.

    Look ISS is almost non functional right now because of in part all the “international” participation. RGO

  • “It would be pointless for China to “steal” the obsolescent technology of the ISS which is in any case already shared with the Russians.”

    Agreed with that, but…

    “Inviting China to join the ISS program would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers. By working together, we can learn to live together.”

    Why? What is there about a space project that everyone thinks will reset behavior and history?

    Unfortunately, I cannot remember its name, but I agree with a line in a 70′s study of future space policy options that said;

    “The political situation in space, will reflect the political situation on Earth. Not the other way around.”

    ASTP for example was nice, but that’s not what changed the Soviet Union, nor is our relationship with the Russians completely non-adversarial, even today. After all, is that not a major why we need domestic alternatives to reaching LEO? Adding Chinese dependency to the mix, would be a step backward…

  • Fred Willett

    It’s interesting that even without commercial crew we are beginning to see competition affecting space.
    At Space Access ULA was outlining all the upgrades they’re planning for the Centaur upper stage in an atempt to bring down the cost for Delta and Atlas launches. As well they’re looking to get into things like fuel depots, tugs and even lunar landers using the centaur.
    All of this on their own dime, and probably as a direct result of the pressure they are getting from SpaceX.
    It’s all very well to dis SpaceX as “unproven” and “still in development” but the lower prices SpaceX advertises are starting to look very worrying. ULA needs to bring down prices to protect it’s market share. If it can’t Dream Chaser, CST-100 and Blue Origin as well as NASA and Air Force launches could all quite easily migrate to Falcon 9 when SpaceX gets a few flights under it’s belt.
    Forget Congress. All congress can do is slow commercial down. Not stop it. In the bigger picture congress doesn’t matter. Competition does.
    As far as HSF goes SpaceX will continue with or without commercial crew funding. So will Dream Chaser and Blue Origin. Even Boeing will continue or cede the market.
    I think we’re now past the tipping point.

  • Inviting China to join the ISS program would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers.

    Inviting China to join the US at the Ground Round would help to build trust and understanding between the superpowers. Oh, wait…

    By working together, we can learn to live together.

    Or learn not to like how one another work, and seek out better ways to kill each other.

    The US cannot afford another half century of cold war.

    Yes, nothing would kick butt like returning to a $500 billion GDP and Jim Crow.

  • Dave Klingler

    amightywind wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 1:07 pm:

    “As Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.”

    As Vladimir Lenin used to say, and Reagan quoted many times.

    Fred Willett wrote @ April 16th, 2012 at 10:00 pm:

    “I think we’re now past the tipping point.”

    I’ve tried several times in the past few years to postulate at what point we would be past the tipping point. Even if SpaceX has two successful COTS flights this year, I’m not sure that would necessarily do it.

    To my paranoid mind, both the Senate and the House members’ questions in hearings have indicated willingness to stall commercial space until SLS can catch up. “Downselect”, to me, means “Downselect to Boeing and one other player, take your pick, and we’d prefer it to be Sierra Nevada because that will steer money and safety to traditional contractors while providing a non-traditional player as cover.” The cost of using SLS for Station is not dissuasive for the folks I’ve watched in those hearings, and in fact they talk about it as a done deal.

    SpaceX has a lot of launches in their manifest, but they’re by no means an established player until they get successfully into the meat of their manifest in the next few years. They haven’t yet transitioned to being a going concern, and there are still at least a few situations I can imagine that would jeopardize the company.

    I don’t know how determined Jeff Bezos is, either. He could, like Beale, just decide to pack it in one day. Same goes for Bigelow.

    It seems to me that if Boeing weren’t a winner in the downselection, they would need to continue with CST-100 anyway just because they’d suddenly find themselves receding quickly as a player in any sort of spaceflight. I also have trouble swallowing the idea that they wouldn’t get selected; someone would get wind of it and simply make a phone call.

    Sierra Nevada is the weakest player, simply because they don’t have the money to continue with DC if they’re not selected, and I don’t know of anyone who would step up and pay them to finish. I suppose there’s a chance someone like Boeing or LockMart might buy them out. Bigelow seems to have bet on CST-100. There’s also a chance of an outside player, someone really bizarre like ATK, but I haven’t read too much about DC’s per-flight overhead and I’m not totally sure it’s a cost-effective vehicle anyway.

    So the point is that I’m not sure we’re past a tipping point yet. My thought this year has been that if we could make it one more year, we might be golden.

  • vulture4

    Dave Klingler: “The cost of using SLS for Station is not dissuasive for the folks I’ve watched in those hearings, and in fact they talk about it as a done deal.”

    I absolutely agree that our political leaders have said this, as a way to keep their campaign contributions coming in from the SLS/Orion contractors. But Gerstenmaier has correctly said that Orion would be extremely inefficient in the roll of LEO logistics. Orion was shoehorned into this role in a Powerpoint that I remember well, presented almost off the cuff when NASA was finally asked how we would support the ISS after the termination of Shuttle and realized they hadn’t thought about it. Orion is _very_ poorly designed for LEO logistics, with less crew and cargo capacity than Dragon and a heavy service module which is unneeded. And unless the ESAS was a complete con job Orion can only carry crew with SLS. Are we going to spend more than we spent on a Shuttle launch to put four people and a few hundred pounds of cargo in low earth orbit?

    The two strongest competitors are obviously Boeing/CST-100 and SpaceX. Bezos should get R&D funds as VTOVL has future applications. If we need a runway lander Dreamchaser is inferior to Boeing’s X-37-based OSP proposal by nearly every criterion and should be dropped.

    But the real downselect is not among the CC contenders, it is between LEO and BLEO, i.e. Orion. LEO and BLEO are not complimentary, they are competing strategies for HSF, and we cannot afford both.

  • vulture4

    Just to clarify, what ESAS said was that orion cannot be manrated on any LV other than Ares I. SLS was defined as a new LV for Orion, replacing Ares I.

  • vulture4

    “ASTP for example was nice, but that’s not what changed the Soviet Union, nor is our relationship with the Russians completely non-adversarial, even today. After all, is that not a major why we need domestic alternatives to reaching LEO? Adding Chinese dependency to the mix, would be a step backward…”

    Obviously China would add competition and eliminate both an expensive monopoly and an obvious single point failure.

    Second, ASTP was a flash in the pan, but I don’t think anyone who wasn’t in the program can understand the impact of ISS. In a few years I went from an environment in which even bringing a camera to work was forbidden to actually sitting next to a Russian at a firing room launch console, chatting during holds about the training Russia had provided to the Chinese before their first flight. We quickly came to see each other as colleagues rather than potential adversaries. While there have been enormous difficulties, and even some backsliding under the Bush and Putin administrations, the ISS program has made a substantial and lasting change in the way American and Russia regard each other. Not to mention that without the Russians the program would never have gotten the critical mass of support in Congress that got it off the ground, and would be grounded now.

  • Dave Klingler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 8:54 pm:

    “Orion was shoehorned into this role in a Powerpoint that I remember well, presented almost off the cuff when NASA was finally asked how we would support the ISS after the termination of Shuttle and realized they hadn’t thought about it.”

    That seems like a bit of an exaggeration. It seems to me that they had thought long and hard about how they were going to make Ares I fit the bill. There was no Plan B, and Plan C was Commercial.

    “If we need a runway lander Dreamchaser is inferior to Boeing’s X-37-based OSP proposal by nearly every criterion and should be dropped.”

    I think Boeing and BO are the least predictable. I’ve read that Boeing has said they won’t complete CST-100 without funding, although I have yet to find a source. While Bezos has the money to go pretty far with BO, because the company’s so secretive it’s tough to say how determined he is. SN, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have the funding to complete DC without NASA support. Regardless, I’m not sure I can make a conclusive argument in Boeing’s competitive superiority, other than “c’mon, they’re Boeing.”

    I find your assertion that DC is inferior to a putative X-37C interesting. The specs seem roughly similar, and DC is welded metal while X-37C seems like another billion dollar study troll. It’s not that I wouldn’t like to see Boeing turn over a new leaf one morning and fund a X-37C to completion, but, well, “c’mon, they’re Boeing.”

    Regardless, I think a 1.5G runway lander would be a valuable thing to have up and operating. Why do you say that X-37C is superior?

  • Robert G. Oler

    vulture4 wrote @ April 17th, 2012 at 10:24 pm
    We quickly came to see each other as colleagues rather than potential adversaries.>>

    doesnt matter…those relations are forming in the hundreds every day between US and Chinese people both in Business and government and it has not changed things all that much.

    RGO

  • vulture4

    I agree international collaboration is difficult. However I was working on Freedom and it was slipping into oblivion before the Russians joined and gave it a geopolitical rationale.

    Suspicion and mistrust between the US and China persist in many political circles, though I agree that commercial ties make war less likely a single incident could change things for the worse. If the US and China become rivals in space it will certainly not help. Membership in the ISS will also help mitigate tensions between China and India, and between China and Japan. ESA is already pushing for closer work with China, partly to reduce dependence on Russia as a sole source for human access.

    Moreover, as much as we might wish otherwise, Chinese GDP is likely to surpass that of the US within 15 years, and it is unlikely the US can afford to lead the exploration of space alone. If we are to succeed, we must learn to work together.

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