House Appropriators Praise FAA Space Office, But Will Deny Funding Increase-UPDATE

House Appropriators Praise FAA Space Office, But Will Deny Funding Increase-UPDATE

UPDATE, May 13, 2015:  The full committee approved the bill today with no changes to the FAA space office funding.

ORIGINAL STORY, May 12, 2015:  The full House Appropriations Committee will mark up the FY2016 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) bill tomorrow (May 13).  It plans to hold the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) to its FY2015 funding level rather than approving a requested increase even though the draft report accompanying the bill praises the office and its intention to expand its efforts towards commercial lunar operations.

After expressing support for using NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) for commercial launches, the draft report lauds AST’s “willingness to leverage its existing launch licensing authority to encourage private sector investment in lunar systems that will work in tandem with SLS and Orion” and asks for more details on specific “zones of exclusive operation on the lunar surface.” 

It also encourages the FAA to issue regulations for insurance requirements for State and local property.  Only Federal property is addressed in existing regulations, which became an issue when the State of Virginia failed to insure its property at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility that was damaged by Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares failure in October 2014.

Despite asking AST to do this additional work, the committee proposes to deny a requested $1.5 million increase — from $16.605 million in FY2015 to $18.114 million in FY2016.  Instead, the office would be level-funded.  AST is part of the FAA’s operations budget and the total request is $9.915 billion.  The committee is set to approve $9.869 billion, a reduction of $45 million from the request, but $129 million more than FY2015. 

The draft report is based on the T-HUD subcommittee mark up of the bill on April 29.  Amendments could be offered at the full committee markup tomorrow or on the floor of the House when the bill is debated there.  The full committee markup is scheduled to begin at 10:15 am ET tomorrow.

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