NASA budget remains flat, supporting commercial spaceflight as shuttle program winds down

WASHINGTON, 15 Feb. 2011.  NASA officials announced a budget request that $18.724 million, less than 2011. It is projected to remain flat for the next five years, while providing funding of $850 million each year through 2016 to kick start commercial spaceflight as the space shuttle program nears retirement with only three scheduled flights remaining.

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By John McHaleWASHINGTON, 15 Feb. 2011. NASA officials announced a budget request that $18.724 million, less than 2011. It is projected to remain flat for the next five years, while providing funding of $850 million each year through 2016 to kick start commercial spaceflight as the space shuttle program nears retirement with only three scheduled flights remaining.While the Obama Administration canceled the Constellation program last year, NASA is still exploring manned spacecraft programs. In the 2012 budget NASA is requesting $1.010 billion for architecture planning of the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) program and $1.8 billion for Space Launch Systems (SLS). The MPCV will transport humans to distant locations in the solar system and the SLS program will develop a heavy lift vehicle that will launch the MPCV, other modules, and cargo for those missions, NASA officials say."This budget requires us to live within our means so we can invest in our future," says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "It maintains our commitment to human spaceflight and provides for strong programs to continue the outstanding science, aeronautics research, and education needed to win the future." NASA is proposing to freeze their budget at $18.724 billion -- the 2010 funding level -- for the next five years. ."We had to make some tough choices, but the budget gives us a plan for sustainable and affordable exploration," says Elizabeth Robinson, NASA's chief financial officer. "We're looking at new ways of doing business that improve program management and delivers even greater results to the American taxpayers."The NASA budget includes $664.9 million requested for 2012 for the space shuttle program, down nearly a billion dollars from 2011 -- funding for the shuttle will drop to under a million dollars by 2014. The budget supports the transition of the space shuttle program's workforce and facilities when the fleet retires this year after nearly 40 years of service. The disposition of most of the shuttle assets will be completed in 2012.NASA officials say the International Space Station (ISS) program will operate till at least 2020 and have requested $2.841 billion for 2012, an increase from $2.779 billion in 2011. NASA will select a non-profit organization to stimulate, develop, and manage research activities on the U.S. portion of the station.Technology development is getting a boost in NASA's 2012 budget request with funding for maximum award levels in the agency's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT) programs increasing to $150,000 for Phase 1 research and to $1 million for Phase 2 activities.NASA also requested $569.4 million for aeronautics research, which includes research and development support for the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA's) Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen).Funding requested for the James Webb Telescope 2012 is $373 million, with $375 million per year forecasted through 2016. The NASA fiscal year 2012 budget and supporting information are available online at http://www.nasa.gov/news/budget/index.html.

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