Volume 2, No. 2 February 16,
The Clinton Administration is proposing to cut spending for
Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology from $1.470 billion
in FY 1998 to $1.071 billion in FY 2003, a 27 percent reduction.
The FY 99 request is $1.305 billion. Highlights of the budget
At the subcommittee hearing, Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA)
voiced concern about the health and direction of many aspects of
the aeronautics program. He questioned Richard Christiansen, Acting
Associate Administrator for Aeronautics & Space Transportation
Technology, who testified before the subcommittee, about the $760
million for "existing or planned new vehicles." Rohrabacher said
NASA should not be in the business of operating a SSTO, but
purchasing launches from commercial providers. He emphasized that
cheap access to space depends not only on technology, but also
competition. The California Congressman said we must transition
from a "socialist transportation" system to a "free-enterprise
- NASA proposes to reprogram $500 million over the next five
years for aviation safety research.
- A critical design review of the Mach 7 Hyper-X launch vehicle
has been completed and flight tests are scheduled to begin in
- NASA wants to spend about $2.5 billion to develop an engine for
High Speed Civil Transport. The design of the airframe component
sub-assemblies would not begin until FY 2003.
- The Advanced Subsonic Technology program would receive $157.4
million. NASA is developing an array of new technologies, including
ways to reduce fan and jet noise by as much as 50 percent.
- For the X-34 program, NASA is requesting $39 million in FY
1999. NASA has exercised an option to purchase a second vehicle.
According to NASA, "this additional hardware will provide
substantial risk reduction, support a more robust flight program,
and ensure that the X-34 can meet the program's flight test bed
- The X-33 program is budgeted at $282 million in FY 1999. The
vehicle's schedule is slipping and now NASA says the demonstrator
roll out will occur in August 1999.
- NASA is setting aside $760 million over the next five years "to
pursue existing planned or new vehicles in response to the
Administration's end-of- the-decade decision on an operational
launch system to reduce NASA's launch costs."
- Future-X will receive only $17 million in FY 1999, far less
than what was anticipated. The program sets into motion an ongoing
effort to develop and demonstrate space transportation technology
through the use of experimental vehicles. With $17 million, NASA
can only fund a single "Pathfinder" vehicle designed to validate a
"small set of key technologies in flight." In FY 1999, NASA would
begin "design and development of the first Pathfinder X-plane and
its associated technology." No money is available for a
"Trailblazer" vehicle (similar to the X-33), which would
demonstrate a broad range of key technologies. Administrator Daniel
Goldin said at a press conference last week that if there were
additional funds in NASA's budget, he would first expand the
- The Advanced Space Transportation Program is funded at only
$28.3 million in FY 1999. Its primary focus is the development of
"technologies to support flight vehicles that can validate low-cost
space transportation concepts."
Gary Hudson, CEO of the Rotary Rocket Company, who also
testified at the hearing, lambasted the X-33 program. Even though
taxpayers will pony up nearly $1 billion for the demonstrator RLV,
he complained Lockheed is not obligated to actually deliver an
orbital vehicle. "It merely promised to dabble in sub-scale
sub-orbital work that might some day be of some use in getting us
to orbit," Hudson said. "Now, [members of the subcommittee] are
being asked to set aside $760 million in future budgets so the
aerospace prime contractors can continue at the feeding trough.
Hudson provided a brief overview of competing, private industry
transportation systems to the X-33 (Rotary Rocket, Kistler
Aerospace, Kelly Space & Technology, and Pioneer Astronautics).
He told the subcommittee members, "I'm sure you can guess how all
these privately-funded companies feel about reserving three
quarters of a billion dollars to continue the aerospace welfare
system. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and their contractors should be
required to spend their own money if they want to be part of the
21st century in space."
Members of the subcommittee restated the need for
indemnification legislation for the X-33 and X-34 vehicles. NASA
stated is will again propose an amendment to the FY 1999
authorization bill regarding insurance, indemnification, and
Congressman Dave Weldon (R-FL) expressed his support for RLVs,
saying we "must move forward with more advanced technology." He
said RLVs will be complimentary to the Space Shuttle. Bart Gordon,
the ranking minority member of the subcommittee, discussed concerns
about improving safety at airports.
About the NSS Capital Capsule
The Capsule is a timely report of highlights from Capitol Hill
hearings and other events involving space issues. Prepared by NSS
staff or volunteers who attend in person, the Capsule provides NSS
members and activists an "insider's" look into the thoughts of our
national elected officials on space issues.
The National Space Society is an independent, nonprofit space
advocacy group with headquarters in Washington, DC. Its 23,000
members and 90 chapters actively promote the creation of a