Details on the Senate's NASA budget

The Senate Appropriations Committee has released the report accompanying its fiscal year 2012 Commerce, Justice, and Science appropriations bill, offering more details about the $17.9 billion it proposes for NASA. Here's a summary chart comparing the president's budget request (PBR) for FY12 along with what the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) and Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) has offered in their respective appropriations bills (all amounts in millions): Account PBR HAC SAC Science $5,016.80 $4,504.00 $5,100.00 Aeronautics $569.40 $569.93 $501.00 Space Technology $1,024.20 $375.00 $637.00 Exploration $3,948.70 $3,649.00 $3,775.00 Space Operations $4,346.90 $4,064.00 $4,285.00 Education $138.40 $138.00 $138.40 Cross-Agency Support $3,192.00 $3,050.00 $3,043.00 Construction $450.40 $424.00 $422.00 Inspector General $37.50 $36.30 $37.30 TOTAL $18,724.30 $16,810.23 $17,938.70 The Senate's bill is not nearly as severe as the House's version, as the numbers above make clear. Space Technology still suffers a significant cut, but not nearly as bad as the House version. Aeronautics is the one area where the Senate proposes deeper cuts than the House. Some highlights: In Space Technology, the Senate bill fully funds the SBIR/STTR and the "Partnership Development and Strategic Integration" programs, and splits the remaining money between Crosscutting Space Technology Development and Exploration Technology Development. The committee recommends in the report that NASA "prioritize ongoing efforts funded in fiscal year 2011 under the auspices of Space Technology using Space Operations funds" for Crosscutting tech work, and specifically recommends that satellite servicing work be continued at FY11 funding levels. ($75 million for satellite servicing is provided in the Space Operations section of the bill.) The bill provides $1.8 billion in Space Exploration for the Space Launch System, but the report states that the program " shall be managed under a strict cost cap" of $11.5 billion through 2017. NASA is asked to provide a report within 60 days of enactment of the bill that, among other things, should either validate that cost cap or provide "a viable and validated alternative". Similarly, the bill provides $1.2 million for the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, but includes a cost cap of $5.5 billion through FY2017. NASA, again, is asked to either validate that cost cap or provide an alternative in a report. The bill includes $500 million for Commercial Crew, but only $307.4 million will initially be available. The remaining $192.6 million would be released only after NASA publishes "the notifications to implement acquisition strategy" for SLS and starts to execute "relevant contract actions in support of development of SLS". The same report section requires NASA to "develop and make available to the public detailed human rating processes and requirements to guide the design of all crew transportation capabilities" funded by NASA, be they government- or commercially-operated. It also directs NASA to limit its use of Space Act Agreements for future CCDev rounds, although NASA is already planning to move to contracts (incorporating some elements of such agreements) for the next CCDev procurement. For the James Webb Space Telescope, the bill provides $529.6 million in 2012, but includes language critical of the cost overruns on the program. It sets an overall development cost cap of $8 billion, in line with the most recent NASA estimates. The bill provides $10 million for NASA to transfer to the Department of Energy to restart plutonium-238 production, although it's not clear if that will be useful since other appropriators failed to provide matching funding in the DOE budget.

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