NASA WILL UNDERGO a "profound" restructuring, to absorb a $5 billion spending cut by the end of fiscal year 2000. The cut has been demanded in the Clinton Administration's latest budget submission to Congress.

Administrator Daniel Goldin says: "Make no mistake. When this is over, NASA will be profoundly different. We're going to restructure the agency...We'll also make NASA less of an operational agency and more of a research-and-development agency," he adds.

The spending cutback was revealed as the Clinton Administration sought a $14.3 billion budget for NASA in FY1996, down $140 million from that projected a year ago. The new spending plan calls for $13.9 billion in 1997, $13.7 billion in 1998, $13.4 billion in 1999 and $13.2 billion in 2000.

It was not all bad news from the space organisation, which plans to continue most of the programmes under way. The International Space Station would receive $1.8 billion, while $3.2 billion is earmarked for the Space Shuttle Programme in 1996. Aeronautical research-and-development spending would rise, from 1995's total of $882 million, to $917 million in the coming fiscal year.

About $30 million is sought to begin developing a next-century robotic space vehicle, which would be one-tenth the size and cost of today's scientific spacecraft. Flight-testing of a prototype could come as early as 1997.

The funding provides for eight Shuttle launches in 1996, including the STS74 lift-off planned for October 1995, in which the Space Shuttle Atlantis would revisit the Russian Space Station ,Mir.

The new re-useable launch-vehicle programme (X-33 and X-34 demonstrators) would get $193 million, including $95 million for flight demonstrations.

The ultimate aim is to move towards a new operational Space Shuttle system by 2010, although the X-33 and its X-34 sister booster-demonstrator programme are only early steps towards this goal.

Source: Flight International