NASA Senate Authorization Bill

Below are summaries of the draft NASA 2010 authorization bill as of July 13, along with relevant proposed amendments, to be marked up in committee/subcommittee July 15 (Senate Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Science and Space, chaired by Senator Bill Nelson).

NASA Authorization Bill:

– It’s a 3-year bill, authorizing FY2011-2013
– Over that period, the 3-year total funding for commercial crew is cut 66%, from $3.3B to $1.2B
– The FY2011 funding is explicitly not to begin the program, but only to expand CCDev and conduct a number of studies
– There are at least 6 separate studies and reports that NASA must do before a full Commercial Crew program would move forward.
– Orion is fully revived as a crew exploration vehicle
– An extra shuttle flight is added
– A shuttle-derived heavy-lift development is called for, starting immediately
– To pay for these additions, exploration technology is cut 90%. OCT technology is cut 50%.

Warner Amendment One (“commercial crew/close the gap amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Warner of Virginia would close the gap by fully reversing cuts to commercial crew development funding and by removing arbitrary restrictions preventing a commercial crew competition from beginning in 2011. The amendment would boost commercial crew funding to the level recommended by the President, adding $2.1 billion over three years, a nearly threefold boost. This will close the gap and ensure U.S. access to the International Space Station.

Boxer Amendment One (“technology and robotics amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Barbara Boxer of California would restore cuts to robotic precursor missions, advanced technologies like fuel depots, in-space propulsion, and radiation shielding, and university research. In FY11, the amendment boosts Robotic Precursors by 130%, Exploration Technology Demonstrations by 230%, and the Space Technology Program by 55%, for a total of $356 million more for technology and robotics in FY11.

Udall Amendment One(“commercial suborbital science amendment”):

This amendment proposed by Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico would bolster a small but high-profile program, designed to allow students, small companies, and researchers to fly experiments on-board new commercial suborbital space vehicles such as Virgin Galactic or XCOR Aerospace. The amendment would ensure that this program, known as Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR), would be fully funded at $15 million per year and report directly to NASA’s Chief Technology Office to give it high-profile status.

UPDATE: The final authorization bill dated October 2010 can be found here.

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