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The Obama administration released its budget request last month for fiscal year 2013, including proposed funding for civil space programs at NASA, NOAA and the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Below is an assessment of how each of these organizations fared.
The top-line proposal for NASA's budget was $17.8 billion, which would be a $30 million reduction from last year’s enacted budget. This would leave the agency with an essentially flat budget, not accounting for inflation. AIA is disappointed with the decrease, especially as other scientific government entities such as the NSF, DOE and NIST received increases in the budget request. Nevertheless, AIA is urging Congress to fully fund the president’s budget request and continue with their hard-won progress in the human spaceflight and space science programs.
Development for the space launch system – NASA’s new heavy-lift rocket for human crews travelling beyond low Earth orbit – was funded at $1.88 billion. The Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle was funded at $1.02 billion. This marks a $200 million reduction from Orion’s fiscal year 2012 enacted budget. NASA stated this was to keep Orion’s development in sync with launch system progress and ensure the complementary systems are completed at roughly the same time. The International Space Station program was funded at $3 billion, signaling the administration’s intent to honor U.S. commitments to international partners in using the ISS for ground-breaking science work until at least 2020.
Developing U.S. astronaut transportation to the ISS continues to be a concern. The commercial crew program is funding the development of such U.S. systems, and the president’s budget request for 2013 funds the program at $830 million. NASA stated once again they intend to fund the development of multiple U.S. providers of crew transportation to the ISS.
The science program at NASA was funded at $4.9 billion, including $627.6 million for the James Webb Space Telescopee – a $98 million increase from last year’s enacted budget. AIA was also pleased to see that $10 million was allocated for the re-establishment of domestic, non-weapons grade plutonium-238 production – a fuel that is absolutely essential for powering deep space robotic missions to the outer solar system. At the same time, AIA is deeply concerned that the president’s overall budget request underfunds plutonium production by $10 million. In previous fiscal years, the Energy Department had agreed to contribute $10 million for plutonium production, in addition to NASA’s funding. The president’s request for 2013 did not include a $10 million allocation for DOE. Without a total annual investment of $20 million by the U.S. government for five years, deep space robotic exploration could become impossible within the decade.
Proposed funding for NOAA’s environmental observation satellite systems in fiscal year 2013 was highly encouraging, with an increase of $144 million over last year’s enacted budget. AIA strongly urges Congress to pass the president’s proposed budget for NOAA’s National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service (NESDIS) at $1.9 billion. NESDIS is responsible for operating NOAA’s vital space-based environmental observation systems. Stable NESDIS funding is crucial to avoid future coverage gaps in NOAA’s polar and geosynchronous orbiting satellite systems.
FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
The FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) was allocated $16.7 million in the president’s 2013 budget request, which amounts to a 2.6% increase over last year. Ensuring that the government can support a steady and timely manifest of U.S. commercial space missions is a key concern, especially as NASA’s cargo missions and commercial crew demonstration missions for the ISS require launch and re-entry licensing by FAA. AIA urges Congress to fully fund the president’s request for FAA AST to ensure NASA’s commercial crew and cargo program restore American access to the ISS as soon as possible.
For more information, new and updated AIA Civil and Commercial Space white papers can be found at the following links:
AIA Issue Paper: A Vital Investment in our Nation’s Future
AIA Issue Paper: Continued U.S. Leadership in Deep Space Exploration Depends on Restarting Plutonium Fuel Production
AIA Issue Paper: Environmental Observations from Space are Critical to the Nation’s Health & Safety
AIA Source: dan.hendrickson[at]aia-aerospace.org