Senate Committee Approves FY 2016 NASA Appropriations

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Publication date: 
17 June 2015
Number: 
83

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s report for the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill, now released to the public, recommends a 1.6 percent funding increase for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in FY 2016.  The committee report is the key document that details the Senate appropriators’ specific recommendations for NASA funding levels and priorities for the upcoming fiscal year.

The language for NASA can be found on pages 94-108 of the report.

Total NASA

The FY 2015 appropriation was $18,010.2 million
The FY 2016 request is $18,529.1 million, an increase of $518.9 million or 2.9 percent
The House bill recommends $18,529.1 million, an increase of $518.9 million or 2.9 percent
The Senate bill recommends $18,289.5 million, an increase of $279.3 million or 1.6 percent

Within NASA are the following major budget accounts:

Science

The FY 2015 appropriation was $5,244.7 million
The FY 2016 request is $5,288.6 million, an increase of $43.9 million or 0.8 percent
The House bill recommends $5,237.5 million, a decrease of $7.2 million or 0.1 percent
The Senate bill recommends $5,295.0 million, an increase of $50.3 million or 1.0 percent

The report states, “For Science, the Committee’s recommendation strives to keep NASA’s near-term launches on track to continue progress in exploring our solar system and the universe, understanding the sun, and observing and protecting our planet.”  The committee also notes that it expects NASA to continue to fulfill the recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences’ decadal surveys in Earth Science, Heliophysics, Planetary Science, and Astrophysics.

Astrophysics

The FY 2015 appropriation was $684.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $709.1 million, an increase of $24.3 million or 3.5 percent
The House bill recommends $735.6 million, an increase of $50.8 million or 7.4 percent
The Senate bill recommends $730.6 million, an increase of $45.8 million or 6.7 percent

The report includes language on the Hubble Space Telescope [p. 97]; the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) [p.97]; and the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) [p. 98].

Earth Science

The FY 2015 appropriation was $1,772.5 million
The FY 2016 request is $1,947.4 million, an increase of $174.9 million or 9.9 percent
The House bill recommends $1,682.9 million, a decrease of $89.6 million or 5.1 percent
The Senate bill recommends $1,931.6 million, an increase of $159.1 million or 9.0 percent

The report includes language on Landsat-9 and the Pre-Aerosol, Clouds, and Ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission. [p. 96]

Heliophysics

The FY 2015 appropriation was $662.2 million
The FY 2016 request is $651.0 million, a decrease of $11.2 million or 1.7 percent
The House bill recommends $642.0 million, a decrease of $20.2 million or 3.1 percent
The Senate bill recommends $649.8 million, a decrease of $12.4 million or 1.9 percent

The report includes language on the Heliophysics Explorer missions and the Solar Probe Plus mission. [p. 98]

James Webb Space Telescope

The FY 2015 appropriation was $645.4 million
The FY 2016 request is $620.0 million, a decrease of $25.4 million or 3.9 percent
The House bill recommends $620.0 million, a decrease of $25.4 million or 3.9 percent
The Senate bill recommends $620.0 million, a decrease of $25.4 million or 3.9 percent

The report states: “JWST has reached a level of development where 100 percent of the telescope’s mass is now beyond Key Decision Point-C, a milestone that indicates that significant progress has been made towards its 2018 launch date.  The bill maintains an overall development cost ceiling for JWST at $8 billion, and the Committee intends to hold NASA and its contractors to that commitment.” [p. 98]

Planetary Science

The FY 2015 appropriation was $1,437.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $1,361.2 million, a decrease of $76.7 million or 5.3 percent
The House bill recommends $1,557.0 million, an increase of $119.2 million or 8.3 percent
The Senate bill recommends $1,321.0 million, a decrease of $116.8 million or 8.1 percent

The report includes language on the Mars 2020 Rover [p. 96], Near Earth Object Observations [p. 96], the Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification and Security-Regolith Explorer [p. 96-97], the New Frontiers Future Missions [p. 97], the New Horizons rendezvous mission to Pluto [p. 97], Advanced Sterling Radioisotope Generator research and development [p. 97], and the emerging mission to Europa [p. 97].

Aeronautics

The FY 2015 appropriation was $651.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $571.4 million, a decrease of $79.6 million or 12.2 percent
The House bill recommends $600.0 million, a decrease of $51.0 million or 7.8 percent
The Senate bill recommends $524.7 million, a decrease of $126.3 million or 19.4 percent

This section of the report includes language on the Next Generation Air Transportation System, the Advanced Composites Project within the Advanced Air Vehicles Program, and unmanned aerial systems. [p. 99]

Space Technology

The FY 2015 appropriation was $596.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $724.8 million, an increase of $128.8 million or 21.6 percent
The House bill recommends $625.0 million, an increase of $29.0 million or 4.9 percent
The Senate bill recommends $600.0 million, an increase of $4.0 million or 0.7 percent

This section of the report includes language on the RESTORE-L Pathfinder mission, the Small Business Innovation Research program, and Flight Opportunities within the Cross-Cutting Space Technology Development program. [p. 100]

Exploration

The FY 2015 appropriation was $4,356.7 million
The FY 2016 request is $4,504.4 million, an increase of $147.7 million or 3.4 percent
The House bill recommends $4,759.3 million, an increase of $402.6 million or 9.2 percent
The Senate bill recommends $3,831.2 million, a decrease of $525.5 million or 12.1 percent

The committee recommends a significant funding cut to Exploration because it no longer funds Commercial Crew in Exploration in this budget account.  Those funds now fall under ISS Crew and Cargo transportation within the Space Operations account.

Highlighting the efforts underway to bring about the next generation of human spaceflight, the report states: “The Space Launch System [SLS], Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle [Orion], and Exploration ground systems are all critical to the timely and successful initial launch of Exploration Mission-1 [EM-1].  To date, both SLS and Exploration ground systems have completed Key Decision Point-C reviews, and Orion is expected complete its review in the third quarter of 2015.  Once that point is reached, NASA intends to develop an integrated schedule by the end of calendar year 2015 that will solidify the schedule for EM-1, and provide the necessary guidance to ensure EM-1 is launched as early in 2018 as possible.

This section of the report includes additional language on the SLS [p. 101-102], Orion [p. 102], rocket testing infrastructure for commercially developed launch vehicles [p. 103], and Advanced Exploration Systems [p. 103].

Space Operations

The FY 2015 appropriation was $3,827.8 million
The FY 2016 request is $4,005.2 million, an increase of $177.4 million or 4.6 percent
The House bill recommends $3,957.3 million, an increase of $129.5 million or 3.4 percent
The Senate bill recommends $4,756.4 million, an increase of $928.6 million or 24.3 percent

This section of report contains language on the U.S. investment in the International Space Station (ISS): “This Committee has consistently supported the construction and operation of the ISS on the premise that it would support world-class science conducted by the United States, as well as our international partners.  The Committee encourages NASA to work with its international partners to support the ISS through 2024, to maintain a high level of safety, and maximize the return of scientific research.”

The report also includes language on the 21st Century Space Launch Complex [p. 105].

Education

The FY 2015 appropriation was $119.0 million
The FY 2016 request is $88.9 million, a decrease of $30.1 million or 25.3 percent
The House bill recommends $119.0 million, or level funding
The Senate bill recommends $108.0 million, a decrease of $11 million or 9.2 percent

This section of the report includes funding levels for and language regarding the Space Grant program, the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, the Minority University Research and Education Program, and the STEM Education and Accountability Project. [p. 106]

The committee report represents the views of the Senate appropriators, but its recommendations may or may not be reflected in the Joint Explanatory Statement that will accompany the final FY 2016 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill.  Final outcomes on funding levels and directive language will depend on reconciliation between Senate and House bills and reports.