credit change.gov / caption: Obama's space policy is more of the same
In his first statement as acting administrator Christopher Scolese has called the Obama administration's NASA budget for FY2010 as "responsible and reflects the administration's desire for a robust and innovative agency". NASA has declined an interview request but told Hyperbola that there will be more budget detail in a month's time
Back in April 2008 the then NASA exploration systems mission directorate associate administrator (AA) Richard Gilbrech told the US House of Representatives space and aeronautics subcommittee, "we estimate that for every $100 million reduction we lose a month," when referring to a reduction in funds due to a possible year long continuing resolution (CR)
NASA has been working under the FY2008 budget since last October, almost five months ago, a budget that is about $200 million less than the Bush administration's FY2009 budget proposed for exploration
So if the FY2008CR remains until September then you would think that according to Gilbrech the maiden flight of Orion-Ares will slip from March 2015 to May 2015. Right?
The next question is, when will or can this FY2009 omnibus bill pass? Jeff Foust says that the CR is to run through 6 March, but if the omnibus bill doesn't get passed what then?
I have a funny feeling that that omnibus bill isn't going anywhere. The shenanigans over the FY2010 budget is going to keep the politicians fighting each other (so much for the idea of bipartisanship - we don't have such silly notions over here, it's absolute power or nothing) for the next seven months
The budgets just get delayed so often you can put good money on it happening. And by the way, over six months, for a $17 billion budget, inflation alone, at about 2% per annum, will consume $170 million, so that $200 million shortfall is still creeping upwards
We already know what the impact of the other various CRs has been, along with a few technical obstacles no doubt. During the 11 August 2008 teleconference Constellation programme manager Jeff Hanley and NASA's exploration systems mission directorate's deputy AA Doug Cooke (who is now the AA after Gilbrech's November departure) announced that the agency's internal planning date for the first crewed flight of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, Orion-3, was being put back 12-months from September 2013 to September 2014
Remember how NASA has two dates? One internal one and one "external" date that is based on a 65% confidence level. The said internal date delay was "due to a better understanding of the known funding, including the requested fiscal year 2009 budget"
And something else that I find odd, according to Cooke and Hanley the 12-month delay for the internal planning date will not affect the March 2015 target. So for years there is an 18-month gap between the internal date and the 65% confidence level date and then they can shrink that to 6-months and the March 2015 date remains at a confidence level of 65%
There is a good chance that this "known funding" will never appear. When asked back in August what happens if the budget isn't approved on 1 October 2008 Hanley and Cooke said they did not know what the impact of such a funding delay would have on the 2014 date
I got the chance to ask Cooke a while back about what they had not been able to do due to the various CRs since 2005. When you have hundreds of dollars missing, I wondered aloud, what can't you afford to do that you had planned to do to keep to the schedule?
Nothing, came back the answer. Nothing?! I responded. Nothing. Go figure
Much has been made of the "extra" $400 million for exploration that was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 but the harsh reality is that it is very likely to be absorbed by Constellation to try to stem the slip to the right on the schedule rather than fund the "commercial" development of manned transport, namely COTS option D
And don't forget that we don't know how much of this FY2010 budget is actually for exploration. There may be no more for exploration and the increase may be for climate science, we will only know come end of March
This statement just came in from the Space Foundation and I have to say I agree:
"The budget proposal for NASA represents a disappointingly small step in the right direction. It is far from what is needed if the U.S. is to stimulate the economy, create more high-tech jobs and hold on to its eroding leadership position in space," said Space Foundation Chief Executive Officer Elliot Pulham. "The proposed budget is a stay-the-course budget, not a budget for stimulus or change. Combined with the lingering absence of a NASA administrator, we are missing a golden opportunity to lead and inspire at a time when leadership and inspiration are crucial."
So the US president's fiscal year 2010 budget is more of the same and Barack Obama also omitted space from his budget remarks/speech. He didn't even mention solar power. Did you hear that fellas? SBSP spells d,e,s,p,e,r,a,t,i,o,n