NASA Administrator Details Impact of 2014 Budget

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discussed the White House's 2014 FY Budget Request, which was released realier today. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discussed the White House’s 2014 FY Budget Request, which was released earlier today. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studio

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden spoke with the media today regarding the White House’s 2014 FY Budget Request, which was unveiled Wednesday, April 10, 2013, a few hours prior to the briefing. Joining Bolden was NASA’s Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson. Given the fact that NASA’s proposed budget dropped by an estimated $50 million, Bolden and Robinson did their best to highlight the positive aspects of the possibilities reflected in the 2014 FY Budget Request. As the 2013 budget is still open, or “unsettled” as Robinson put it, the comparison was made between this request and the 2012 budget. Robinson stressed this when she said, “Given the times we live in, most of the comparisons that I will be giving are from 2012.” Comparing the two highlights the cuts that NASA could  now face.

Throughout the briefing Bolden and Robinson tried to place the 2014 FY Budget Request in a positive light. They only occasionally highlighted the fact this request holds the possibility of an estimated $50 million less for NASA than last year. In Bolden’s words, this budget request forced NASA to make some “tough choices.” Things might improve some as the amounts in the budget request are not the final ones the agency will receive.

The budget requests for both NASA's Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft were met. The James Webb Space Telescope also saw the amounts requested for it met as well. Image Credit: NASA

The budget requests for both NASA’s Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft were met. The James Webb Space Telescope saw the amounts requested for it met as well. Image Credit: NASA

Under this budget proposal, not all of NASA’s efforts will be cut; some in fact even received the amount of funding that was requested for them. NASA’s new crewed spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift booster, and Commercial Crew Program will be fully funded. The space agency’s  James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will be also fully funded. NASA’s next planned rover to Mars, the InSight and Maven missions to the Red Planet, and other planned missions will also move forward. Not all of NASA’s efforts were so fortunate.

NASA’s planetary efforts under this budget request would see cuts of more than $270 million. As NASA currently lacks the ability to launch astronauts on its own, the planetary missions draw the public’s attention the most. Despite this perception, this branch of NASA has seen repeated cuts from the Obama White House.

Other budget-related events surfaced today that contradicted what the NASA Administrator has stated recently.

Bolden had said that he did not think that there would be any U.S.-led crewed missions to the Moon within his lifetime. That was countered today by a bipartisan bill called the RE-asserting American Leadership in Space Act, or REAL Space Act. Under this act, NASA is directed to return to the Moon by 2022—just one year after the first flight of SLS. It is unclear what had initiated this bill. Bolden also stated that NASA might contribute as a “participant” under some other country’s crewed mission to the Moon. This statement appears to be contrary to the views of some within Congress.

“Moon missions, both human and robotic, offer the United States true international cooperation, while ensuring that we lead from the front. Other nations, private industry, and government experts all regard the Moon as the right place for NASA to direct its resources. The time to reassert the United States as the leader in space is now, and the REAL Space Act is the next step,” said Rep. Robert Aderholt, one of the co-signees of the act.

Joining Aderholt were Bill Posey (R-FL), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Chairman Frank Wolf (R-VA), John Culberson (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Rob Bishop (R-UT), and Ted Poe (R-TX).

The act directs NASA to establish a human presence on the Moon, while remaining within budgetary constraints. It is unclear how, given the current economic reality, NASA could accomplish this.

Members of Congress took the opportunity to issue the REAL Space Act, directing NASA to return to the Moon's surface by 2022. Image Credit: NASA

Members of Congress took the opportunity provided by the release of the FY 2014 Budget Proposal Request to issue the REAL Space Act, directing NASA to return to the Moon’s surface by 2022. Image Credit: NASA

While concerns about the impact of the FY 2014 Budget Request on NASA’s planetary and other initiatives were highlighted, the topic generating the most interest was the 2021 mission to bring an asteroid into lunar orbit.

It was revealed in Aviation Week & Space Technology last month and confirmed today that NASA would receive $100 million for a mission to travel to an asteroid and then tow it back to the Moon. According to Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), after the asteroid is placed in a stable orbit around the Moon, astronauts would travel to the asteroid using NASA’s new human-rated spacecraft, the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, powered into space via the SLS.

AmericaSpace followed up on an editorial that we had published earlier this week regarding what would happen if an asteroid were to be selected that could possibly be worth trillions of dollars in minerals. Robinson stated that, while this was something that they were aware of, it will more than likely not be a determining factor in which asteroid is selected.

“I think the president’s directive was built upon a number of things—first and foremost being planetary defense—so we can learn more about these bodies, some of which come into close proximity to the Earth. It is true that there is a space mining community, which is small but developing, that has not be a part of our discussions in terms of selecting the asteroid,” Robinson said. “Obviously we’re looking at all sorts of interests in this asteroid mission in terms of scientific and industrial uses that could come from it, and so I think that we are probably going to take that into account. But I can tell you at this point the mining aspect has not been first and foremost in our thoughts developing the overall asteroid mission itself.”

In summation, SLS, Orion, JWST, and Commercial Crew should not be affected by the FY 2014, but NASA’s planetary missions, astrophysics, and other branches of the space agency will be.

 

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21 comments to NASA Administrator Details Impact of 2014 Budget

  • Dean G

    Another year, another year of no clear directives or end game. If the Goverment could just give things a chance and not keep yanking NASA’s chain we might actually see something we could really be proad of in the long and short term. Very frustrated we as a nation just can’t stick to anything for more than just 5 min. This budget shows it again

    • Ferris Valyn

      So, is that what happened with VentureStar? We just couldn’t “stick to anything?”

      • Jeff Wright

        Venture Star was never going to work. Hydrogen likes simply shaped, roomy metal tanks, not multi-lobed composite tanks. Venture Star was to have an internal bay, then a hump, then external payloads piggback with stumpy wings added to it (Lockheed Secret Projects)

        HLV advocates have always been on the outside looking in.
        HLVs are very simple–closer to water towers in construction than airframes.

        They aren’t sexy.

        But they get the job done.

        • Ferris Valyn

          Then what happened with NASP? It wasn’t the hydrogen tank

          • This is all from memory, so I could be off by a year or two.

            NASP was killed by the Bush I Administration due to rising costs. That program was doing some pretty Sci-Fi stuff such as create, store, and use a new form of fuel, slush hydrogen. Oh, and there was the whole scramjet thing. The challenges were huge, from thermal to propulsion, from controls to materials.

            X-43 has gotten us a lot closer to the dream of NASP. And look at the challenges it’s had. One of the big anvils hanging over NASP’s head was whether scram-jets could accelerate throughout their flight regime. I don’t think that’s a question any more thanks to X-43 and X-51. X-51 has shown that you can use Jet-A as a fuel.

            • Ferris Valyn

              So, going back to the original point of this – you (and Mr. Wright) are saying that 2 of the biggest programs did not succeed, not because we couldn’t “stick to a plan” (as per Dean G’s claim), but because the technical hurdles were too high, and the program was costing too much?

              • I think it’s a stretch, even a big stretch, to call NASP and Venture Star “two of the biggest programs” of their era.

                I don’t recall how much annual funding NASP received during its brief life. I don’t think it was even billions. Completing NASP in the 1980’s and 1990’s would have been like Apollo in the 1950’s. Obviously, I’d have liked to see us stick with NASP. But then I think we should have stuck with Valkyrie. Our nation’s fickle, what are you gonna do?

                As for Venture Star, Clinton’s space efforts were never termed consistent. Subsequent developments have certainly demonstrated that the technical hurdles of Venture Star’s composite bi-lobal tanks were far from insurmountable. The tiles were done. The linear aerospike engines were testing well. But would Venture Star have really been able to succeed as an SSTO launcher? Search me. Since you and Jim have a least a working relationship with some of the folks who were running NASA then, why not ask them why Venture Star was terminated? I’d be fascinated to hear their answer.

                • Ferris Valyn

                  I’ve heard there were substantial technical problems related to Venture Star (as compared to the funding available, similar to what you describe).

                  I am all for pushing the technical envelope. I am even willing to funding things that we later find out are too far of a stretch, or find out that while the physics are good, the technical issues can’t be closed because the cost/benefit ration proved to be wrong.

                  But we need to actually understand how/why NASA programs failed. People claim “oh, its just because we don’t pick a direction and stick too it” (Dean was stating that pretty straight forward).

                  That kind of thinking can get you down a rat hole, that you can’t get out of.

        • Ferris Valyn

          Or if you want to discuss HLVs – what happened with Shuttle-C?

          Or NLS?

    • Dean,

      House Approps staffers are already calling thePresident’s FY14 NASA budget DOA.

      The asteroid mission likely won’t get even $50M much less $100. Commercial crew will maybe get another $525M. Like last year, the President’s cut to Orion and SLS will be ignored.

      The real thing to focus on is this year’s authorization hearings for NASA. I’m pretty excited, based on what I’ve been told, at least on what the House may enact. As for the Senate, well that probably means a 2014 NASA Auth. Act that looks a lot like the 2010 Act did. Not necessarily bad, given this Administration and its team running NASA.

  • Karol

    I’m pleased to see a re-introduction of the REAL Space Act and a return to the Moon by 2020, but very disappointed to see a crushing 270 million dollar cut to planetary exploration. The real battle is yet to begin, and we may yet see that the Administration may have budgeted 100 million for an asteroid capture mission only so that during negotiations, the mission could be given up in exchange for comm space funding which the Administration perceives as being a target for Congressional cuts. Space exploration and planetary science, which is what NASA should be doing, should receive taxpayer dollars before heavily subsidized for-profit “free enterprise” comm space.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Karol – please learn the definition of a subsidy. Commercial Crew is not a subsidy.

      • Karol

        Ferris, please learn how to read, particularly the testimony of Elon before Congress as to how much of the funding of SpaceX came from the taxpayer, or perhaps re-read the numerous times Jim Hillhouse and Jason Rihan have pointed this out to you before on AmericaSpace.

        • Ferris Valyn

          If your only discriminator for “a subsidy” is how much of the money comes from the government, then by definition, anything the government spends money on (including things like SLS, Ares I, Orion, tanks, fighter planes) meet the definition of subsidy.

          But I can’t imagine you are that short sighted.

          • Orion, SLS, C-17, and other items that the gov’t pays for the research, development, and (this is key) procurement belong to the gov’t. That procurement structure started in WW II and was formalized in 1947.

            The gov’t, which has paid over 90% of all of the DDT&E expenses for F9, F9H, and Dragon, does, and will, not own any of these systems. Heck, the gov’t can’t even tell SpaceX who the first crew will be, if there ever will be one that is, on Dragon’s first crewed mission. And the choicest part is that the gov’t then, after spending hundreds of millions, has to pay billions more to use any of SpaceX’s products. Boeing and Lockheed’s defense systems can only look-on with envy.

            The polite term that comes closest to describing the COTS/CCDev acquisition methodology is “subsidy”, although “hand-out” is a close second, and payola wouldn’t be a distant third.

            I want to be clear; if the gov’t owned what it has paid for, I wouldn’t mind at all. But this procurement is an example of how out-of-touch Washington can be. I have a difficult time convincing people that this scheme exists, even here in lil’ ol’ Austin, the socialist part of the Lone Star state. In the rest of the state, a scheme like this is considered pure socialist at best.

            So in summary, the gov’t pays for nearly everything. But it doesn’t get anything. There is nothing like this in the rest of the gov’t. And thank God!

            • Ferris Valyn

              Answer me this Jim – if someone wanted to buy an SLS (presume a US satellite manufacturer),
              1) Who, theoretically, would they buy it from?
              2) Would the government try and prevent them from doing so?

              Also – do you view EELV program the same way?

              • One cannot “buy” an SLS or an Orion any more than one could have “bought” a Saturn V or an Apollo spacecraft. As a gov’t funded program, only the gov’t can purchase those systems.

                If one were to enter into a cooperative agreement with NASA, that could open-up the possible use of an SLS or maybe even Orion. So let’s say Tito wants to go to Mars. A Falcon 9 Heavy, which has a mere 12 mt GTO payload capacity, will only get him about 8 mt to Mars where a SLS B-II would get 3 times that mass, or about 25-28 mt, to the Red Planet. If he enters an agreement with NASA, and the Agency is providing the launch services, then viola! An SLS is used by Dennis to visit Mars. Now, if it makes you feel better, according to MSFC SLS is being built to launch spacecraft other than Orion.

                As for EELV, I’ll answer in two ways. First, I think I’ll let two ULA folks answer that. Andy Aldrin put it best in April 2010 when he stated that, after Boeing and LockMart lost billions in the EELV effort, there weren’t going to do that again. Or as ULA’s CEO Mike Gass stated in testimony before Nelson’s Subcommittee in March 2010, if NASA wants a rocket, it can pay the DDT&E on that and ULA will be glad to build the Agency a rocket but that it wasn’t interested in going through the 1990’s experience again. I think for the most part, ULA isn’t happy with ULA.

                Let’s remember why there is a ULA today and not, as envisioned, two separate companies competing and, through their competition, lowering launch costs. The commercial space industry crashed and burned in the late 1990’s and by the early 2000’s Boeing and LockMart were telling DoD that they were tired of loosing money and were ready to shut-down their Delta-IV and Atlas V lines. In essence, EELV was on the ropes. So DoD twisted the FTC’s arm and got the shotgun marriage that is today’s ULA approved, despite the obvious anti-competative nature of such a merger.

                What do I think of EELV? It obviously hasn’t worked and stands as a cautionary tale to commercial launch aspirants.

                • Ferris Valyn

                  You miss the point Jim – EELV was done exactly how COTS was done, and how CCrew is being done.

                  And lets remember – it was Mike Griffin who gave SpaceX the for COTS and CRS (and I’d like to see your example of how the government paid for over 90% of the DDTE costs for Dragon, Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy)

                  • First, you’re avoiding the point that you were mistaken in criticizing Karol’s representation of current commercial space funding as a subsidy. And I don’t think you read my reply’s points on EELV.

                    It is completely immaterial whether and if COTS was a photocopy of EELV or that Mike Griffin started it or oversaw it while NASA’s Administrator. That EELV, along with every other “commercial” space firm, was either insolvent or heading there fast by 2004 should have been a huge red flag and been heeded. I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make?

                    During Elon’s October 26th testimony before Congress, he was asked how much the gov’t had funded SpaceX’s development of Falcon 9 and Dragon. He answered that it was about 90%. Nobody doubts that SpaceX has put a higher percentage of its own funds into its space efforts than any other company. To date, SpaceX has received $915M in development funding from NASA. Your connected to the commercial space folks, so you answer this question, how much has SpaceX generated in funding outside of the above $915M?

                    • Ferris Valyn

                      No, actually I wasn’t incorrect (and you haven’t addressed my point). I asked for a definition of a subsidy. You both seemed to claim that it was based purely proportion of total costs (which is wrong). Then, you added the cavet of ownership vs developing a service used (which is also wrong).

                      Which brings us back – what is the definition of a subsidy.

                      As for EELV, when COTS was funded, and how CCrew money is being distributed – all of that actually is factor on whether Commercial Crew is a subsidy, and whether you should consider those other things “subsidies” as well.

  • […] recent announcement that $100 million had been earmarked in the White House’s FY 2014 Budget Proposal Request to send an unmanned probe to an asteroid and have it transported back to lunar orbit to be studied […]