In the $1.3 trillion federal spending package that was passed by Congress and signed by President Trump recently, NASA is set to receive $20.7 billion for its budget, nearly $1.1 billion more than NASA received in fiscal year 2017 and $1.6 billion more than the Trump administration’s 2018 budget request.
The Space Launch System (SLS), the cornerstone of the space agency’s human spaceflight program since 2011, will receive $2.15 billion in the budget, and the Orion crew capsule, which will launch on top of the SLS, will receive $1.35 billion. The new budget also provides $350 million for the construction of a second SLS mobile launch platform, which could shorten the time between the first and second SLS flights.
The current SLS launch platform at Kennedy Space Center, which was originally built for NASA’s Ares 1 rocket, is nearly completed, and will be transferred to Launchpad 39B for countdown and launch operations.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s outgoing acting administrator (set to retire at the end of April), told a House subcommittee in March that the agency’s budget was not sufficient to build a second SLS platform without delaying or canceling other projects.
Lightfoot acknowledged that a second SLS mobile launch platform would be better for the program in an “ideal world,” noting, “I could fly humans quicker, probably in the 2022 timeframe,” with a second mobile launch platform.
Other items in the new budget include $4.7 billion for space operations, which funds the International Space Station and development of commercial crew ferry ships by Boeing and SpaceX; $6.22 billion for NASA’s science programs, an increase of nearly $500 million over 2017; $595 million for two missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa; $660 million for robotic exploration of Mars; $850 million for the astrophysics division; $1.92 billion for the earth science division; $760 million for the space technology directorate; $685 million for aeronautics; and $100 million for NASA’s education efforts.
For more information on NASA and its work, visit their Web site.
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