At a media telecon Thursday afternoon to talk about the just-completed Dragon mission to the International Space Station, NASA administrator Charles Bolden said that budget sequestration could have an adverse effect on the agency’s commercial crew program if it extends beyond the end of this fiscal year. “So far, we don’t see any significant impact the rest of this fiscal year, but our projection is that if we’re not able to get out of this sequester condition, it may slow down our progress on commercial crew, and that’s my big concern,” he said.
Bolden said the final 2013 budget, based on the Senate bill, gave commercial crew more money that it would have received under a continuing resolution (which would have funded the program at the pre-sequestration amount of $406 million versus the $525 million, before rescission and sequestration, the program got in the bill passed last week). This budget, therefore, mitigated the worst of the adverse effects possible to the program NASA warned about in a letter to the Senate last month. But he warned milestones planned beyond the end of this fiscal year could be pushed back. “We’re already talking to our partners about delays in milestones that may be necessary if we don’t get the funding we want,” he said. There could also be modifications to the Commercial Resupply Services contracts NASA has with Orbital Sciences and SpaceX for cargo delivery to the ISS because of sequestration, he added.
Meanwhile, the fiscal year 2014 budget finally appears to be on the horizon. The White House confirmed Thursday that the administration will release its 2014 budget proposal on April 10. Budget proposals are supposed to be released on the first Monday in February, but the administration postponed the release, blaming the uncertainty about sequestration and the final FY13 budget.
That budget proposal could include advance work on a new asteroid mission. Aviation Week reported Thursday that the budget proposal may include $100 million to start work on a mission to capture a very small asteroid and bring it to cislunar space. That funding would be spread among the human exploration and operations, science, and space technology mission directorates to begin initial planning. A study released last year by the Keck Institute of Space Studies at Caltech estimates that a near Earth asteroid seven meters in diameter could be captured and moved to high lunar orbit for about $2.6 billion.