'Crunch Time' for NASA Budget in House

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AmericaSpace Note We should know something by next week. Indeed, not very much longer.

‘Crunch time’ for NASA budget as supporters of Senate, House version jockey for position has some interesting points about the pluses and minuses of the Senate version of the 2010 NASA Reauthorization Act,

    President Barack Obama’s plan, which would have killed NASA’s current rocket program, Constellation, and relied on commercial rockets for low-Earth orbit missions, is dead.

    The full Senate has passed a NASA funding bill, and the Obama team supports it, because the Senate puts more money into commercial rockets than a competing House version.

    The Senate plan, which would start NASA working on a new heavy-lift rocket immediately, looks good on paper for Huntsville’s Marshall Space Flight Center. However, at least one well-known expert critic now says it’s not so good, after all.

    The House plan, which closely follows Constellation, has passed a committee but not been scheduled for a floor vote.

    There has been pressure for the House to simply adopt the Senate plan. So far, that pressure has been resisted.

    The House committee’s NASA bill is waiting for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring it to the floor. House members have lobbied their leadership, too, but no vote had been set as of Wednesday.

    If the full House could pass its own plan, that would mean a House-Senate conference. Not having a House bill strengthens the Senate bill’s chances.

    If nothing passes, the last option is a continuing budget resolution passed by both House and Senate. Nobody wants one, but most people expect it. And if one is coming, partisans will try to use it to push NASA closer to one version or the other. A funding resolution could resolve the debate or, if it’s weak, leave NASA dangling until a new Congress convenes.

Other tidbits…

The Senate requires NASA to develop the core stage of the heavy-lift rocket first and add an upper stage later, Griffin said. Given federal budget realities, Griffin said, that really means no upper stage.

But NASA has already spent $2.2 billion developing an upper-stage and new upper-stage engine for the Ares I rocket that was to be the first part of Constellation. Griffin said both could be used on a heavy-lift rocket.

The upper-stage work was done in Huntsville, where NASA has just finished building an upper stage manufacturing and development center at Marshall Space Flight Center. NASA is also scheduled to deliver the first J-2X upper-stage engine to the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for testing in December.

Follow the Senate plan and this hardware, investment and, possibly, workforce will all be lost, Griffin said.

Well, that won’t be good. There’s more…

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