Congress, NASA

House offers a slightly smaller NASA budget

The House Appropriations Committee released Wednesday morning its proposed Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS) appropriations bill, which includes $17.573 billion for NASA, $138 million less than the administration’s budget proposal. This budget includes $1.025 billion for Orion and $1.857 billion for the Space Launch System, of which just over $400 million would go to ground systems development. Commercial crew funding isn’t spelled out in the bill; after accounting for SLS and Orion, there’s $830 million left for commercial crew and exploration R&D (funded at $334 million in the administration’s request) in the exploration account.

The bill does go into some detail about planetary science spending, which would get $1.4 billion, or $200 million more than requested by the administration. The bill specifies that $150 million would be set aside for something called “Mars Next Decade”, which apparently refers to the planetary science decadal survey’s top priority flagship-level mission of a rover to collect samples for eventual return to Earth. The funds would not be released “unless and until the National Research Council has certified to the Committees on Appropriations that the chosen mission concept will lead to the accomplishment of Mars sample return as described in the most recent planetary science decadal survey,” the draft bill states. If the NRC finds that is not possible, the funds would be used instead to begin planning for a Europa orbiter mission, the second-highest priority from the decadal.

Absent from the House version of the bill is the transfer of NOAA satellite programs, as the Senate did this week in its version of the budget.

The CJS subcommittee is scheduled to markup its appropriations bill tomorrow morning at 9:30 am; that hearing will not be webcast.

22 comments to House offers a slightly smaller NASA budget

  • yg1968

    According to SpaceNews, commercial crew would get $500M under the draft House FY 2013 CJS Appropriation bill.

  • This morning’s Florida Today has a good article on the budget proposals, commercial crew in particular.

    Looks like Congress would rather to continue funding the Russian space program than their own.

  • E.P. Grondine

    First off, I want to state the obvious to those who have read my posts here at space politics. I’ve had a stroke, and now have trouble spelling and writing.

    The policy area which I covered before that was impact, and the responses to this hazard are not only bi-partisan but international as well, covering a very very broad political spectrum.

    ( I should add to this that they don’t call Native America 500 Nations for no reason at all.)

    For a long time, I have watched entrenced interests, in the US NASA’s science base, in other words NASA’s clients, set NASA’s science goals. For a long time, this process was complelty informal, only to be formalized with the Decacdal Studies.

    The problem is that the best quality impact specialists did not participate in seting the goals in these Decadal Plans. For one example, we see this is the goals set for Mars science, where it can be argused that getting an accurate impact history (geological history) should be the top goal.

    In any case, NASA’s Science Deputy must report to the Congress on his plans for dealing with the impact hazard by this fall.

    It will be interesting to see the assumptions he makes in his planning.

  • vulture4

    Hang in there, EP, your spelling is still better then mine. Perhaps a more open discussion of science goals would help. A few high visibility programs (Constellation, JWST) tend to crowd out many smaller ones that might have greater return. There are some Mars orbiters out there now, what is the logical next mission for impact science?

  • A M Swallow

    The Senate is rumored to have ordering NASA to down selecting to two designs. IMHO That will be the SpaceX Dragon and the Sierra Nevada Corporation DreamChaser.

    The cargo Dragon is due to pass its flight test in less than a month so it is the established supplier. The DreamChaser is the alternative design, a big alternative since it is the only horizontal lander.

    NASA does not need two capsules so the Boeing CST-100 is the obvious one for cancellation. Blue Origin is too much the outsider for a primary bet where timescales are critical.

    The unfunded Excalibur Almaz uses Russian technology so NASA would have political problems funding it.

    I do not know if the launch vehicles will receive any money but they will probably be allowed to continue without NASA funding.

  • Bennett

    I second Vulture4’s comment. I’ve always enjoyed reading your comments, EP, and hope to read them for many years to come.

  • Coastal Ron

    Not that it’s much to crow about, since the Commercial Crew Program is still underfunded, but it interesting to note that both the House and Senate plan to give Commercial Crew about 25% more than they did last year.

    I’m OK with that trend…

  • Martijn Meijering

    The DreamChaser is the alternative design, a big alternative since it is the only horizontal lander.

    That’s not an advantage, but a drawback when you’re going for reliable execution as should be the focus now. Capsules are a well-proven approach and Boeing is a well-proven supplier. Lifting bodies are much less proven and SN is a less experienced contractor.

    NASA does not need two capsules so the Boeing CST-100 is the obvious one for cancellation.

    NASA doesn’t need two capsules specifically, but it does need competing and redundant suppliers. Choosing CST-100 and Dragon would be the logical thing to do. Dropping CST-100 and choosing DC would be best for SLS / Orion the Shuttle political industrial complex, which is no doubt what the usual suspects in Congress would want.

    Orion is the obvious capsule to cancel, which doesn’t mean the SM and avionics have to be canceled too. Redesigned to be refuelable in orbit and compatible with both Dragon and CST-100 they could be very useful.

    I like DC and I wish it well, but betting on it now is too risky for my taste. CST-100 + DC could be an excellent choice if both manage to deliver and SpaceX still develops a manned Dragon too (as they could since they would still have CRS and the motivation). Then we would have three commercial systems, which should blow Orion out of the water. But I would rather maximise the probability of having two competing systems, than maximising the (lower) probability of having three.

    I’m hoping for Dragon + CST-100 with back burner funding for some of the others. If there’s only going to be one award, I’d want it to be CST-100 and then rely on SpaceX to develop a manned Dragon anyway.

  • Boeing spent nearly $16 million on lobbying last year, according to I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out Boeing is behind all the pressure to downsize the competition.

  • Michael from Iowa


    If Congress does end up forcing NASA to downsize, this may or may not work in Boeing’s favor. SpaceX would obviously be selected since they’ve made the most progress of any developer in the commercial programs thus far, and are also closest to completing a man-rated crew vehicle.

    Boeing did a parachute drop of the CST-100 earlier this month and has been running around with a mock-up model of the finished capsule… but other than that I don’t think we’ve heard much of anything on their progress for the past several months, so its hard to say how close they are.

    Sierra Nevada finished the test vehicle for Dream Chaser a few months ago and supposedly it’s in New Mexico getting ready to run drop and flight tests. But, again, like Boeing it’s hard to say how close they are to having a demo-ready vehicle.

    And then of course Blue Origin is a freaking wild card at this point.
    We haven’t heard a thing from them since the test failure last Fall and we heard little from them prior to that so who knows where they are.

    Frankly I think downsizing would be a bad move – I think we should be encouraging more competition, and (more importantly) more potential redundancy for any future commercial crew program.

  • ArtieT

    The longer this commercial crew ‘competition’ goes on, the more likelihood a competitor will drop out as stakeholders see their capital investments being flushed down a rabbit hole w/ no guarantee of return. NASA might be dragging this out to see which company is most likely able to stand on their own. After all, depending on commercial crew is fine as long as there is a Company in business to supply the services. Let the strong survive!

  • A M Swallow

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ April 20th, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Boeing spent nearly $16 million on lobbying last year, according to I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find out Boeing is behind all the pressure to downsize the competition.

    If Boeing’s lobbying is behind the downsizing then the system can be gamed. Drop Boeing’s entry and wait for the second lot of lobbying. Resist the pressure to change the winners use insufficient money as the grounds. Boeing may then lobby Congress into awarding NASA extra money, possible via a different bill.

  • Robert G. Oler

    E.P. Grondine wrote @ April 19th, 2012 at 10:34 am

    First off, I want to state the obvious to those who have read my posts here at space politics. I’ve had a stroke, and now have trouble spelling and writing>>

    I think I can speak for most everyone in wishing you a speedy and fruitful recovery…I would for myself just note that you’re comments are some of the most insightful and thoughtful here, no matter if I agree or not. I hope you contribute for a very very long time…my best Robert

  • Coastal Ron

    Michael from Iowa wrote @ April 20th, 2012 at 9:44 am

    Another way to look at this would be what happens if Congress continues to underfund the program, regardless how many are still competing:

    SpaceX – I agree they will stay in the hunt, since they are already flying their vehicle in the cargo configuration, and their internal goal is to provide human transportation. Their work may slow, but they will continue.

    Boeing – They have a lot of agreements (Bigelow, Space Adventures, etc.) that bolster their position if they can make it to flight, but none of those would be exclusive agreements (as far as I know). I think this boils down to the Boeing Board of Directors deciding if this is worth pursuing.

    Sierra Nevada Corp. – Being privately-held has it’s advantages, but I think a lot boils down to a successful test program. If everything works the way they think it should, and they have great confidence in their design and approach, then I think they will make a go of it. It might require partnering to spread the financial risk, but a winged horizontal-landing vehicle in these post-Shuttle days is pretty hard to resist from a customer standpoint.

    Blue Origin – Bezos, like Musk, has a personal plan, and he is even less restricted than Musk. I think he’ll keep pushing no matter what.

    One of the calculations all of these companies will be making is how does more self-funding affect future prices? Less funding from Congress doesn’t mean less oversight and customer input from NASA – Congress still wants the best of both worlds, in that they want say over how companies offer the service, but they don’t want to pay for that right.

    That creates lots of risk, and risk is money, so we’ll see who thinks they can mitigate their risk the most and still stay in the game.

  • byeman

    “NASA does not need two capsules so the Boeing CST-100 ”

    There is no credible logic in that statement.

    Downselect will be Boeing and Spacex. DC has no hope.

  • Coastal Ron

    Robert G. Oler wrote @ April 20th, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Well said Oler.

    Keep it coming E.P.

  • Robert G. Oler

    A down select is premature in my view. As someone who has supported this notion (along with Whittington and Kolker) In the “Liberty vehicle” it is in my view premature…the actual process is working.

    Boeing is of course the heavy hitter in the room but in reality it has not made much more progress then say “Dream Chaser” as. And Boeing has the deep pockets to make progress.

    The only thing that seems a little challenging with Dream Chaser is the Flight by Wire…but its doable. the process should in my view continue to a little more technical maturity R”GO

  • BeancounterFromDownunder

    Yep, down select premature, move to FAR disasterous on schedule and costs. Easy to see the porksters are still at it. Stick with the current providers using SAAs and progress will continue reasonably quickly, cave in to Congress, watch out for the move to snail pace.

  • Byeman

    Boeing’s lobby is not behind the downsizing. Boeing lobbying is for much larger fish. CST-100 is nothing in terms of Boeing’s bottom line. NASA projects that contractors such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin handle are done more for PR than for profit. They get more media coverage and visibility on NASA projects but the real money is in defense or airline contracts.

  • common sense

    “They get more media coverage and visibility on NASA projects but the real money is in defense or airline contracts.”


    And btw make defense contracts number 1 on your list…

    “The initial contract would be for 179 aircraft for $35 billion.”
    “Lockheed Martin Corp., the world’s largest defense company, won a $3.9 billion NASA contract”

  • common sense

    Ah and also the value of the initial contract only is part of the equation.

    What (used to) really matters was the cost-plus aspect where they would make tons more money than in the initial bid…


  • Coastal Ron

    Byeman wrote @ April 21st, 2012 at 10:07 am

    They [Boeing] get more media coverage and visibility on NASA projects but the real money is in defense or airline contracts.

    Multi-$Billion contracts are nothing to sneeze about, and there are a lot of program managers within Boeing that would be pushing hard for SLS work. They are already spending money on building a pathfinder ET for the SLS, so they do see NASA work as more than just press releases and peanuts.

    There is synergy in the strategy of pushing for down-selecting Commercial Crew while at the same time not pushing to support it. Boeing knows that any potential SLS work is politically unstable (i.e. it could die quickly like Constellation did), yet it’s still good money while the work lasts. For Commercial Crew, if it goes forward, then even though they have the most pedestrian crew vehicle, they are perceived as the “most mature” entry from an overall package standpoint. Oh, and they also make money on rocket launches for any other CCP winners whose founders aren’t named Elon.

    I’m not saying it’s a good strategy that Boeing is pursuing, but it’s the same winning one that all the big government contractors play – which is why they are the big government contractors.

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