Later this morning the House Armed Services Committee will mark up its draft fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes funding for the Defense Department and contains various policy provisions.
One of the biggest space-related provisions, located in the Strategic Forces section, is to authorize work on a new liquid-propellant rocket engine that would, in effect (although not explicitly stated), be a replacement for the Russian-manufactured RD-180 that has been at the center of so much controversy in recent months. The engine would permit, in the bill’s language, the “effective, efficient, and expedient transition from the use of non-allied space launch engines to a domestic alternative for the evolved expendable launch vehicle program.” The engine, to be completed by 2019, would be developed under a “full and open competition” and be available for purchase by all US space launch companies.
The subcommittee authorized $220 million for the program in its draft, although in the chairman’s mark released Monday that amount appears to be decreased by $23 million, a reduction “for liquid engine combustion technologies and advanced liquid engine technologies,” according to the tables in that portion of the bill.
The original Strategic Forces draft features a section on the EELV program that included a “sense of Congress” provision endorsing both the current block buy contract and efforts to support competition in the program. The chsirman’s mark, though, deleted that provision, while retaining the rest of the section, which requires notification of Congress of any change in the program.
Elsewhere, the bill would require the US Air Force to launch the last of the remaining DMSP weather satellites, DMSP-20, currently in storage. The bill would reduce authorized funding for a follow-on military weather satellite program from $39.9 million to $5 million, while authorizing an additional $135 million for the EELV program to cover the procurement of a launch of DMSP-20.
The bill also provides new life for the Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office, which the administration sought no funding for in its fiscal year 2015 budget proposal. The NDAA would authorize $30 million for the office to cover its operations as well as the launch of the ORS-5 satellite it is developing.