SpaceX's path toward sending up manned spacecraft could get a lot rockier if the budget bill approved by the Senate Appropriations subcommittee becomes law. The Commercial Crew program contracted both SpaceX and Boeing to build crewed spaceships, and it needs $1.2 billion next year to keep on schedule according to NASA. But the bill only allows approved $900 million for the program. That may seem like a lot, but it could significantly push back the 2017 target for the first crewed launches, leaving astronauts to rely on Russian Soyuz rockets for several more years at around $500 million a year.
The contracts are based on certain milestones that, if passed, grant money to SpaceX and Boeing to go on to the next stage. For instance, SpaceX earned $30 million this week from NASA for its successful launchpad abort test last month. But the schedule of tests and benchmarks would get thrown off if the budget were cut. Things aren't much better in the House, which put $1 billion on the budget for the program.
"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations subcommittee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia, " NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement on the subcommittee vote. “Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our Commercial Crew Program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget. By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own."
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is leading an effort to amend the bill with another $300 million for the program when it comes up for a vote before the whole committee Thursday, but it's not very likely to succeed.
"If that cut in the subcommittee is sustained in the full committee, and ultimately in the final appropriations bill, it’s going to delay us from being able to launch Americans on American rockets, " said Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fl.) during a speech on the Senate floor on Wednesday. "Instead of 2017, just two years from now, it’ll delay us another four years — that’s four more years of relying on the Russians."
You might also like:
NASA Commercial Crew Human Spaceflight Program for Transport to the International Space Station (ISS): SpaceX Dragon and Boeing CST-100 Contracts, Safety Reviews, History and Update Reports
eBooks (Progressive Management)