Space One of Five Trump Administration R&D Budget Priorities

Space One of Five Trump Administration R&D Budget Priorities

The Trump Administration released its list of R&D priorities for the FY2021 budget today.  Space exploration and commercialization make the list of the top five areas of investment needed to maintain American science and technology leadership during what it refers to as the Second Bold Era.  No budget numbers are included, but the document from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) signals what to expect when the budget request is released in February.

OSTP Director Kelvin Droegemeier refers to the First Bold Era of S&T as the period from World War II until now where the U.S. government invested in basic and applied research, infrastructure and education across many disciplines.  Today is the Second Bold Era “characterized by unprecedented knowledge, access to data and computing resources, ubiquitous and instant communication” and amazing technologies, but also “extraordinary threats.”

The memo, dated August 30, but released today, provides direction to departments and agencies to “enable this Second Bold Era.” The five R&D priorities are:

  1. American Security
  2. American Leadership in Industries of the Future
  3. American Energy and Environmental Leadership
  4. American Health and Bioeconomic Innovation
  5. American Space Exploration and Commercialization

That last one calls for government R&D investments to leverage efforts at universities and in the private sector and to focus on American leadership in space by supporting the Artemis program, including utilizing the Moon as a proving-ground for Mars.

Top priorities for government investment are —

  • in-situ resource utilization on the Moon and Mars;
  • cryogenic fuel storage and management;
  • in-space manufacturing and assembly; and
  • advanced space-related power and propulsion capabilities.

Departments and agencies are also directed to prioritize activities that —

  • “ensure an industrial base for commercial activity in space and that will broadly speed private-sector progress in meeting stated Government goals and furthering the space economy,” and
  • “seek opportunities to work with advanced materials, additive manufacturing, and machine learning capabilities that have broad potential applications in space and on Earth.”

It sounds like a tall order. How realistic any of that will be depends on what the Administration actually requests and how much Congress appropriates. Space is the fifth of the five priorities, but the fact that it is on the list at all may bode well for space agencies.

The memo also lists five “priority crosscutting actions” that include supporting transformative research and building “strategic, multisector” partnerships.

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