Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations

Great comic from Florida Today

One of the many pieces of legislative compromise over the President’s proposed FY 2011 NASA Budget, which seeks to kill NASA’s Project Constellation and outsource future human spaceflight, is discussed in detail over at NASA Spaceflight in Ambitious Ares test flight plan proposed for HLV demonstrations.

But even more likely than the above compromise is a continuing resolution for NASA for at least the first part of the 2011 fiscal year. Why? Well, as 51D Mascot and Jorge over at NASA Spaceflight show, the likelihood that NASA will be funded through a continuing resolution for at least the first part of 2011 is a near certainty. We’ve heard the same from Senate and House sources.

To add some context:

1) NASA Appropriations are never considered as a standalone bill. At a minimum, each agency’s appropriations are bundled with the other agencies covered by each appropriations subcommittee. In NASA’s case this is “Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies” (previously HUD, VA, and independent agencies).

2) In recent years it has been standard for Congress to bundle most discretionary spending into a single bill (called an Omnibus or Consolidated bill) passed on a single vote and sent to the president for either signature or veto.

3) In recent years it has been common for Congress to fail to pass appropriations bills before the start of the fiscal year. In these cases Congress passes a Continuing Resolution which funds the affected agencies at the previous fiscal year’s level (and leaves intact any statutory provisions in the previous appropriations act).

With that out of the way, here are the appropriations acts covering NASA for the last several years, including date they became law (keep in mind that the fiscal year starts October 1 of the previous calendar year):

Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, became law 12/16/2009.
Omnibus Appropriations Act, 2009, became law 3/11/2009.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, became law 12/26/2007.
Revised Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2007, became law 2/15/2007.
Science, State, Justice, Commerce, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2006, became law 11/22/2005.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, became law 12/8/2004.
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2004, became law 1/23/2004.
Consolidated Appropriations Resolution, 2003, became law 2/20/2003.
Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2002, became law 11/26/2001.

These results should be sobering for proponents of the FY11 plan. In none of the previous nine fiscal years has NASA appropriations been passed before the start of the fiscal year. In seven of those years NASA appropriations have been bundled with most of the rest of the government in a Consolidated or Omnibus bill. And in one of those years (2007), Congress failed to pass a NASA appropriations bill *at all*, resulting in the agency being funded for the entire year at the previous year’s level. And in none of those years was the NASA appropriations bill as controversial as it is this year.

Based on this I would say that the probability of NASA starting FY11 under a Continuing Resolution at FY10 levels, with the statutory prohibition against Constellation termination in place, approaches unity.

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