NASA released late Monday its detailed (713-page) fiscal year 2015 budget request, containing many additional details about its proposed budget now available last week. Some highlights:
The budget document provides more details on the decision to cut funding for the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) airborne telescope, which will result in the facility being put in storage if NASA can’t find partners to pick up the slack. “The original case for compelling ‘Great Observatory’ science from SOFIA assumed an overlap with the Spitzer Space Telescope for complementary science observations and at least one year of operations prior to the launch of the Herschel Space Observatory,” said the document. However, SOFIA has suffered several years of delays, which NASA concludes means it “will no longer provide the kind of scientific impact and synergies with other missions as once planned. Additionally, the James Webb Space Telescope, planned to launch in 2018, will provide data at mid-infrared wavelengths, partially mitigating the absence of SOFIA.”
The budget proposal provides breakouts for the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion, revealing that NASA is seeking less month for both than Congress appropriated in FY14. NASA seeks $1.053 billion for Orion, versus $1.197 billion appropriated for the current fiscal year; SLS would get $1.38 billion versus $1.6 billion in 2014. The budget doesn’t go into details about how the SLS funding would be spent, as the program is pending a milestone known as Key Decision Point C (KDP-C). “Once the SLS Key Decision Point (KDP)-C is completed (expected in April 2014), NASA will provide this [budget] data in a revision to the Congressional Justification,” the document states.
Planned spending for ISS operations will result in the “elimination” of one planned cargo mission to the ISS in fiscal year 2015, according to the document, which doesn’t specify if that mission is one flown by Orbital or SpaceX. “NASA is currently updating cargo requirements as part of the FY 2016 budget planning process, and assessing the full impacts of the FY 2014 appropriations,” the document states. As part of the Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative (OGSI), NASA is seeking $100.6 million for ISS operations to “prevent additional Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) flight deletions.”
The budget document provides some details on changes to NASA’s Space Technology programs. A planned in-space demonstration for its Cryogenic Propellant Storage and Transfer project, seen as key to potential future propellant depots, will now be done as a series of tests on the ground. NASA also plans to restructure its Laser Communications Relay Demonstration project “to encourage the greater involvement of industry.” The Sunjammer Solar Sail project will be delayed as it finds a new launch opportunity.
The budget projections for NASA’s Mars program do not, curiously, including any funding for the Mars Exploration Rover program (the Opportunity rover) for FY15 or beyond. MER, like other ongoing missions, is subject to the upcoming senior review to determine if it will continue operations, but other extended missions that will also be part of the review, like Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, do have funding listed for FY15 and beyond.
The budget also includes no funding for the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) instrument, planned to make use of spare parts for the OCO-2 spacecraft but be flown on the ISS. “In light of other planned spaceborne carbon dioxide measurement missions, the development of OCO-3 will cease, and no funds are requested for OCO-3 in FY 2015,” the document states. However, the additional OGSI funding includes $29.3 million to continue work on OGO-3.
Besides funding for ISS resupply missions and OCO-3, the OGSI section details how NASA would use this additional funding, if provided. The OGSI funding includes $35 million for additional planetary science mission extended funding and $15 million for accelerating work on radioisotope power systems. The $100 million for Space Technology would be used for a variety of programs, from additional support for the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program to cooperation with DARPA on a robotics competition.