Draft Report Spells Out House Appropriators’ Plan for NASA

Draft Report Spells Out House Appropriators’ Plan for NASA

The House Appropriations Committee released its draft report to accompany the FY2019 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bill today.  The CJS subcommittee marked up the bill last week. The full committee will act on it tomorrow. The outlines of the committee’s proposal were known last week, but the report provides much more detail on how it wants NASA to spend the $21.546 billion it recommends.

The Trump Administration requested $19.892 billion for NASA in FY2019.  The House subcommittee proposal of $21.546 billion is more than $1.6 billion above that level and $810 million more than NASA’s current spending.

A few of the key recommendations in the draft report include the following.

The report shows how the subcommittee wants to allocate the $785.6 million more it provides for NASA’s science programs compared to the request, which is $459.1 million more than FY2018.

  • Earth Science:  $1,900.0 million.  That is $21 million less than FY2018, but $116 million more than requested.  The report does not specifically address the Administration’s proposal to terminate four Earth science missions (PACE, OCO-3, CLARREO-Pathfinder, and the Earth facing instruments on DSCOVR).
  • Planetary Science: $2,758.5 million.  That is $539 million more than FY2018 and $523.5 million more than requested.  It more than doubles the amount for Europa Clipper compared to the request ($545 million instead of $265 million) and adds $195 million for a Europa lander.  It also specifies $210 million for developing technology for planetary missions, including $35 million for icy satellites surface technology, $10 million for the Mars helicopter for the Mars 2020 mission (which itself is funded at $650 million), and $81 million (as requested) for production of plutonium-238 for use in radioisotope power sources for planetary missions.
  • Astrophysics: $1,029.0 million.  Within that, the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telecope (WFIRST) would be funded at $150 million, the same as FY2018.  The Trump Administration wants to terminate the project. The report notes its concern about the project’s rising cost and directs NASA to implement the “most efficient development program for the telescope and its instruments.” It specifies that NASA continue development of the coronagraph as a technology demonstration and allocates $20 million for the Starshade technology demonstration.  Separately it includes $10 million to search for “technosignatures,” such as radio transmissions, in partnership with the private sector and philanthropic organizations.
  • James Webb Space Telescope would remain in a separate line item, not combined with the rest of astrophysics as requested, in order to “ensure visibility” as the project addresses a probable breach of its $8 billion cost cap.  It calls the recently announced schedule slips “an enormous disappointment.” JWST would get $304.6 million, the same as the request.
  • Heliophysics: $688.5 million, which is $2 million less than the request and the same as FY2018.

As already known from the information provided last week, the Space Launch System, Orion and Exploration Ground Systems are funded essentially at their FY2018 levels, which is more than the request.

Exploration Research and Technology would be funded at $900 million, about $100 million less than the request because the committee did not agree to move the Human Research Program (HRP) into this account.  They kept it in the Deep Space Exploration Systems account.  The committee allocates $150 million for nuclear thermal propulsion, $52 million for solar electric propulsion, $35 million for additive manufacturing, and $130 million for RESTORE-L.

The report states that the International Space Station “shall remain operational as long as it remains safe and operable.”  The Trump Administration wants to end direct government funding for it in 2025, a topic of a Senate hearing today and a House hearing tomorrow.  The report supports the $150 million requested for commercial low Earth orbit (LEO) development, but limits NASA’s ability to spend the money until it provides a multi-year detailed plan for those activities.

The committee expresses concern about delays in the commercial crew program and directs NASA to notify Congress “if either of the providers is unlikely to meet uncrewed and crewed flights as currently planned in 2018 and 2019.”  The committee may have more up to date information that is publicly available since NASA’s commercial crew website continues to show the dates for both the SpaceX and Boeing uncrewed and crewed flight tests as all taking place by the end of 2018, not in 2019.

The committee provides $90 million for NASA’s education programs: Space Grant, $40 million; EPSCoR, $18 million; and MUREP, $32 million.  The Administration wants to cancel all of them and requested no funding.

The full committee will mark up the bill tomorrow (Thursday) beginning at 10:00 am ET.  It then must pass the House and the Senate must pass its version of the bill.  A compromise then must reached between the two, so this is just one step in a long process, but it is a step.

Learn more about NASA’s FY2019 budget request in SpacePolicyOnline.com’s fact sheet, available on our Fact Sheets page.



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