Draft version of Senate NASA budget released


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A draft version of Senate’s NASA budget has been released. More commentary to come.

Update. From what I can tell by a quick scan through the actual proposed legislation [pdf], the Senate will give the administration most of the money it wants for commercial space, but also demand that it start work on a heavy-lift replacement of the shuttle immediately, including the full size version of the Orion capsule. However, the language requiring this latter action is very vague (“as soon as possible after the date of the enactment of this act”) and leaves the administration a great deal of wiggle room. From my experience, this means that Congress is trying to create the illusion that it has done something, but is basically leaving the decisions to the administration.

The draft language does forbid any contracts being issued for any new private commercial crew services until the 2012 year, which suggests that Congress wants NASA to focus on the Orion capsule and heavy lift option first. However, to me this merely means the Obama administration is being given the option to stall for a year and then come back again later with the same proposals it offered back in February of this year. That the draft legislation also gives NASA 120 days to put together its plan for its heavy-lift program only increases my doubts about Congress’s seriousness.

Overall, this legislation only confirms my worst fears. If passed as is, both the new private commercial space ventures as well as the government space program will suffer.

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3 comments

  • Kelly Starks

    If past it kicks the can down the road and doesn’t allow massive dismantling of NASA and US space infrastructure and skilled teams. It would naturally be better if they got refocused more no doing something productive – but sadly, coming out of Washington from this congress, this is a lot better then we really should have expected..

  • Coastal Ron

    This legislation is focused on short-term jobs, not saving money and doing exciting things in space. Have you seen how much they are hacking out of the robotic precursor missions and next generation technology research?

    The funny thing is that Senator Nelson has said that he didn’t want Congress designing a launcher, but the language in the bill seeks to force NASA to use the most expensive parts of Shuttle and Ares I. NASA will never be able to afford to do much if it is never allowed to stop being a launcher designer/operator – they don’t do it very well, and it sucks the majority of their budget out of real exploration initiatives.

  • Kelly Starks

    >== the language in the bill seeks to force NASA to use the most expensive parts of Shuttle and Ares I.
    > NASA will never be able to afford to do much if it is never allowed to stop being a launcher designer/operator ==

    Well it could learn to not be a inept launch designer/operator, it used to be, but the big thing in the way of that is also in the way of them doing much. They are now a civil service organization driven by political winds. Hence the LAUGHABLY overpriced Constellation, in contrast to L/M and McDonnell Douglas offers for a $3B (in ’95 $’s) RLV capable of lifting a couple times a week, and in the MacDac case capable of Earth surface to lunar surface (with on orbit refueling) and return to Earth surface while fully reusable. Constellation would do far less, cost 20 times as much to develop, and really offer nothing of great value to industry or space development.

    Commercial crew appeared unlikely to lower costs to NASA compared to shuttle, due to the planed associated overhead and (pork?) programs. So no Revolution there

    You want a better NASA, get a better politics (especially civil service rules) to drive it.

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