first look

NASA would get $18.7 billion in FY2012, almost exactly the same as it got in FY2010, according to a summary of the FY12 NASA budget proposal released this morning by the White House. That amount is about $750 million less than what the administration projected last year for the agency in FY12. Compared to 2010 science would get about $500 million more and exploration would get nearly $200 million more, while a new “Space Research and Technology” account would be created with just over $1 billion in FY12 (space technology had been included with aeronautics in the FY11 proposal.) Those increases would come at the expense of space operations, whose budget would decrease by nearly $1.8 billion compared to 2010, presumably to reflect the retirement of the shuttle.

The document is scant on additional details, although it does mention the budget “Initiates development of a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule to carry explorers beyond Earth’s orbit”. It also makes mention of commercial crew development, although again without additional details. More detailed budget details will come this afternoon when NASA holds its FY12 budget briefing.

One other thing: if you look at page 199 of the summary charts, you’ll see the administration’s long-term budget projections for NASA. They show a budget declining to $18.0 billion in 2013 and 2014 before slowly rising. (One should take such projections, especially more than a few years in the future, with a grain or two or 20 of salt.) The projection for FY15 for NASA is $18.1 billion; last year the projection for FY15 was $21 billion.

Update 1:30 pm: More detailed budget information is now available on NASA’s web site. Some highlights:

* Most agency programs are held flat in the notional outyears beyond 2012, even though the administration’s projections decrease NASA’s budget to $18 billion in 2013 and 2014. * The presentation about the budget states that “tough choices” were made to achieve cost savings, including “reductions to Earth science and administrative costs, elimination of exploration focused robotic precursors, and maintaining the heavy-lift vehicle and crew capsule at approximately the 2011 authorized level.” * Commercial crew would get $850 million per year from 2012 through 2016 in the proposal; that works out to $4.25 billion plus whatever it gets in 2011, compared to the $5.8 billion in the administration’s FY11 request. That amount, though, is still enough to support “multiple, competitive, fixed-price, milestone-based agreements”. * The James Webb Space Telescope is effectively placed in a holding pattern, getting $375 million in the budget request with no commitment to a specific launch date for the troubled spacecraft. “The revised schedule and lifecycle cost will be reflected in the 2013 Budget request,” the presentation states, * Keeping the Space Launch System and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle at 2011 authorized levels in 2012 and beyond “provides a solid foundation from which to advance the development of these important systems.” The presentation doesn’t state when they anticipate fielding these systems, which the authorization act states must enter service by the end of 2016.


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