Budget Dominates June Space Activity in D.C.
Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) outlined key elements that will form the bipartisan foundation of his FY 2011 NASA funding authorization bill in a June 14 letter to Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, and Science. The letter said the bill will:
- Outline the logistics and support necessary to maximize the scientific return on the International Space Station (ISS) through at least 2020.
- Follow a strategy that encompasses commercial cargo delivery, as well as the flight of an additional Space Shuttle mission once it has successfully completed an independent safety review.
- Support the continuation and expansion of Commercial Crew Development Program, but require NASA to complete a number of studies, assessments, and milestones to ensure astronaut safety.
- Direct NASA to initiate development of a heavy-lift vehicle in fiscal year 2011 in an effort to support near-term missions in the Lunar and high-Earth orbits of space and to serve as a contingency capability to the ISS.
- Direct the heavy-lift and crew vehicles to "leverage the workforce, contracts, assets, and capabilities of the Space Shuttle, Ares I, and Orion efforts."
On June 18, President Barack Obama sent an amended budget request to Congress that would shift $100 million from NASA to the Department of Commerce and Department of Labor for initiatives aimed at helping Florida and other states affected by job losses associated with the end of the Space Shuttle program. The $100 million would be taken out of the $4.26 billion originally requested for NASA's Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in the FY 2011 budget.
At a June 23 Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on the proposed FY 2011 Defense budget, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) continued his opposition to President Obama's proposed plan to cancel development of the Ares rocket. Sen. Bennett asked Secretary of Defense Robert Gates about the status of a congressionally mandated Defense Department plan to sustain the sold-rocket motor industrial base. Sec. Gates said the plan is not ready, but he promised to provide appropriators with the recommendations they need to make an informed decision on sustaining the United States' solid-rocket-motors industrial base.
Also in June, the Space Foundation's Government Affairs office briefed the U.S.-China Economic & Security Review Commission on the Foundation's September 2009 trip to China. The Commission monitors, investigates, and submits to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People's Republic of China, and provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.