February 6, 2015 – Earlier this week, President Obama released his FY2016 budget request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). That request calls for a FY2016 top line budget of $18.5 billion for the nation’s space agency — a $519 million increase over what Congress approved for the current fiscal year.
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden emphasized that the recommended increase of about a half-billion dollars over last year’s enacted budget would provide the necessary resources to continue advancing America’s bipartisan space exploration plans. The ongoing programs will ensure that the United States remains the world’s leader in space exploration and discoveries benefiting all humankind.
Bolden noted that the budget allows NASA to continue development of the Orion crew vehicle, Space Launch System and Exploration Ground Systems that will one day send astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit. The journey to Mars remains a primary NASA goal, designed to answer some of humanity’s fundamental questions about life beyond Earth and what it can teach us about Earth’s past, present and future.
Bolden said that the 2016 budget will also allow NASA to continue developing and testing transformative capabilities and cutting-edge technologies crucial to future exploration initiatives. This includes accelerating development of a high-powered solar electric propulsion capability to drive the robotic segment of an asteroid retrieval mission and future exploration systems in deep space.
Looking further into the solar system and beyond, the NASA budget also funds continued work toward a 2018 launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. Named for NASA’s second administrator, it will be the largest observatory ever put in space. A successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, the new platform is designed to help answer questions such as how the solar system originated and changed over time.
NASA science funding supports research in a wide variety of areas, facilitating collaboration with more than 10,000 U.S. scientists in universities, industry and government laboratories through over 3,000 openly competed research awards.
Partners with American Commercial Space Enterprises. The Budget continues NASA’s partnership with U.S. commercial space industry to develop and operate safe, reliable, and affordable systems to transport crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS) and low Earth orbit in coming years. This will enable additional research on the International Space Station (ISS) by providing an additional crewmember, and will provide crew rescue capability for the ISS. This strategy bolsters American leadership, helps produce a more globally-competitive U.S. space industry, enables the United States to take advantage of the Station’s research capabilities and reduces reliance on foreign providers for access to the ISS. NASA will continue to seek out partnerships with innovative private space ventures to advance the agency’s mission and build a new space economy.
Invests in Developing Space Technologies. New technologies will increase the affordability, capability, and safety of NASA, other federal government, and industry space activities. The Budget funds the testing and development of technologies in laboratories, on the ISS, and in future in-space missions. One of the key technologies supported in this Budget is a high- powered solar electric propulsion capability that will give future NASA, other government, and commercial missions new capabilities and will power the robotic segment of the Asteroid Redirect Mission.
Develops the Building Blocks for an Ambitious Deep Space Exploration Program that will Send American Astronauts out into the Solar System. The Budget keeps development of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft on track to send astronauts on deep space missions, including to Mars. The budget furthers development of foundational technologies for areas including life support, deep space habitation, and advanced space suits, that will be needed for a human mission to a redirected asteroid. The ISS provides a unique environment for research on human health and space operations necessary for future long-term human missions.
Improves Understanding of our Home Planet. The Budget provides $1.9 billion for multiple Earth science missions to enable the study of climate, weather, and natural hazards. The Budget includes funding for a multi-decadal space-borne Sustained Land Imaging system, including the immediate initiation of Landsat 9; a new Thermal Infrared satellite to ensure that a key at-risk measurement is continued; and annual, focused, technology investments in support of Landsat 10 and subsequent missions.
Continues Exploration of the Solar System and Unlocks Mysteries of the Universe. The Budget includes $5.3 billion for a robust space science journey of discovery, including funding for the James Webb Space Telescope and exploration of our solar system. The request includes funding for the next Mars rover mission, as well as a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, allowing NASA to proceed with project formulation.
Promotes Innovation in Aviation. The Budget will fund aeronautics research aimed at transforming the safety, capacity, and efficiency of the air transportation system while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. Aeronautics research focuses on the Nation’s future societal and economic vitality, including an Advanced Air Vehicles Program to develop tools, technologies, and concepts for new generations of safer, more energy efficient civil aircraft, with a smaller environmental footprint.
Supports High Quality Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Programs. This budget continues NASA’s effort to consolidate its education efforts into a more focused portfolio funded through the Office of Education. Additionally, the Budget provides $20 million to NASA‘s Science Mission Directorate to fund the best application of NASA’s science assets to meet the Nation’s STEM education goals through a competitive process.
Boosts Sustainability and Energy Efficiency of NASA Facilities. The Budget supports a number of initiatives to help NASA facilities operate more efficiently and sustainably. NASA seeks to achieve a sustainable and energy-efficient infrastructure and reduce its footprint by replacing old, inefficient, deteriorated buildings with new, efficient, high-performance buildings. The Budget supports construction of the Langley Research Center Measurement Sciences Laboratory, which will consolidate the function of several older buildings and provide state-of- the-art lab facilities supporting research and development initiatives unique to the Agency.
Improves Acquisition and Program Management. The Budget continues to support several process improvements designed to achieve greater insight into project performance to minimize or prevent cost overruns. For example, NASA has expanded the use of Earned Value Management (EVM) to cover all contracts greater than or equal to $20 million and has developed an in-house EVM capability that is being rolled out to all of the centers. NASA has also implemented several efforts that have yielded more credible cost and schedule baselines, including the institution of formulation agreements early in a project’s lifecycle and use of joint confidence levels to establish a project’s cost and schedule at the time the project is given the go- ahead to proceed.