NASA's March 2015 target launch date for its proposed Space Shuttle replacement, the Orion crew exploration vehicle (CEV), could be in doubt if the agency's difficult budgetary situation continues beyond December.
NASA administrator Michael Griffin told the US Congress in March that, with the funding demands of the Space Shuttle programme's 2010 retirement combined with NASA's budgets in recent years and the future planned budgets, he was 65% confident that the agency's CEV would make its first crewed launch in March 2015.
The agency's financial difficulties stem from its fiscal year 2008 budget not being appropriated by the US Congress. The budget should have been available on 1 October. The space agency is now operating under a continuing resolution that is funding it at FY2006 levels - more than $300 million less than the 2008 budget, excluding inflationary depreciation. NASA's FY2008 funding is part of a wider budgetary bill. The Congressional approval date for this is unclear and President Bush has already threatened to veto it.
Referring to its financial plan to cope with the continuing resolution that was imposed for FY2007 and its work to mitigate the effect of the current continuing resolution, NASA's exploration systems mission directorate's associate administrator Richard Gilbrech says: "We are still on track for the carry-over plan [for FY2007]...to hold minimum technical requirements for [March 2015]. We are good through December."