Funding for NASA's commercial crew and cargo work has been slashed from $150 million to $90 million with just $1 million for a human rating study contract that was announced and withdrawn in September.
The original $150 million was going to be spent with $80 million for a crew transport programme and $70 million for supporting work. That has been torn up and the $90 million is split four ways. There is $50 million for the Commercial Crew Development programme, $24 million for launch site and test infrastructure, $15 million for docking system development, and the $1 million human rating work.
NASA says: "When the $150 million...was first mentioned, the plan had not been finalised. NASA and the Congress have since agreed on a final plan that allocates $310 million to [the return to the Moon Constellation programme] and $90 million to the commercial...activities."
The $310 million and $90 million split is a redivision of $400 million from President Barack Obama's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act 2009 that was for Constellation. In Congressional hearings in May then acting NASA administrator Christopher Scolese was questioned by Republican Alabama Senator Richard Shelby over why the commercial effort was given $150 million from Constellation funds.
Constellation's Congressional support is significant because by the year's end Obama must decide what US human spaceflight policy is to be. If Obama chooses to return to the Moon there may not be enough funding for full commercial crew and cargo development.
The redivision of funds led NASA to withdraw the human rating contract competition in September when more companies than the agency thought $1 million could help expressed an interest. In another diversion of these commercial funds some of the $15 million for docking systems will be used for international docking standard development involving the European Space Agency, Canada, Japan and Russia.