S. 3729: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

S. 3729

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Sponsor
Sen. John D. Rockefeller

Date
September 30, 2010 (111th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

S. 3729 is expected to be considered on the House floor on Wednesday, September 29, 2010, under a suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage.  This legislation was introduced by Senator John Rockefeller (D-WV) on August 5, 2010. 

Bill Summary

The bill would authorize appropriations for FY2011-2013 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  The bill would reauthorize programs and activities in regard to the international space station (ISS), the Space Shuttle, commercial crew and cargo transportation, earth and space science, and space weather and climate research.

In addition, the bill would develop a space launch system as a follow-on launch vehicle to the Space Shuttle after its retirement, and would continue an additional Space Shuttle flight following the mission currently planned for February 2011.

Authorization of Appropriations

The bill would authorize to be appropriated to the Administrator for FY2011, $19,000,000,000, allocated as follows:

  • $3,868,000,000 for Exploration;
  • $5,508,500,000 for Space Operations;
  • $5,005,600,000 for Science;
  • $929,600,0000 for Aeronautics and Space Technology;
  • $154,800,000 for Education;
  • $3,111,400,000 for Cross-Agency Support Programs;
  • $394,300,000 for Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration;
  • $37,000,000 for Inspector General.

Additionally, the bill would authorize to be appropriated to the Administrator for FY2012, $19,450,000,000, allocated as follows:

  • $5,252,300,000 for Exploration;
  • $4,141,500,000 for Space Operations;
  • $5,248,600,000 for Science;
  • $1,070,600,000 for Aeronautics and Space Technology;
  • $145,800,000 for Education;
  • $3,189,600,000 for Cross-Agency Support Programs;
  • $363,800,000 Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration;
  • $37,500,000 for Inspector General.

Lastly, S. 3729 would authorize to be appropriated to the Administrator for FY2013, $19,960,000,000, allocated as follows:

  • $5,264,000,000 for Exploration;
  • $4,253,300,000 for Space Operations;
  • $5,509,600,000 for Science;
  • $1,105,000,000 for Aeronautics and Space Technology;
  • $145,700,000 for Education;
  • $3,276,800,000 for Cross-Agency Support Programs;
  • $366,900,000 for Construction and Environmental Compliance and Restoration;
  • $38,700,000 for Inspector General.

Policy for Human Space Flight and Exploration:

The bill would ensure that the reliance upon non-U.S. human space flight capabilities are undertaken as a contingency in circumstances in which the U.S. has no owned and operated human space flight capabilities. 

Expansion of Human Space Flight beyond the International Space Station and Low-Earth Orbit:

The bill would direct NASA to develop a space launch system capable of accessing the full range of destinations, including cis-lunar space.  The bill would authorize NASA to limit its’ termination liability costs by extending or modifying existing vehicle development in order to meet the requirements necessary to develop a space launch system.

The legislation would also direct NASA to prepare infrastructure at the Kennedy Space Center to enable the launch of the multi-crew space launch system.

Development and Use of Commercial Cargo and Crew Transportation Capabilities:

This bill would continue to support the existing Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, allowing the commercial space industry to develop reliable means of launching cargo and supplies to the ISS.

The bill would also allow funds to be used to support flight tests, accelerate development, and develop necessary ground infrastructure. 

Continuation, Support, and Evolution of the International Space Station:

S. 3729 would require it to be the policy of the U.S. to support and complete utilization of the International Space Station through at least 2020.

The legislation would also allow NASA to fly the Launch-On-Need Shuttle mission in FY2011 pending the results of a required safety assessment.

Space Shuttle Retirement and Transition:

The bill would direct NASA to retire the Space Shuttle orbiters according to a schedule established by NASA, in conjunction with the mission of the ISS, and to decommission any remaining Space Shuttle orbiter thereafter.  The obiter vehicles should be made available and located for display to the public and educational entities.

Earth Science:

The bill would reaffirm the critical role of NASA in Earth science, and the need to maintain domestic and international data collaboration, and the vital role fulfilled by Earth-observing satellites and monitoring programs.

This provision would place emphasis on the importance of monitoring climate research, weather prediction, and environmental monitoring.

Space Science:

The bill would require NASA to establish a Suborbital Research program to be overseen by a designated official in the Science Mission Directorate.  The program would be designed to advance science and develop the aerospace workforce.

Additionally, the bill would also require NASA to coordinate with the Secretary of Energy to restart and sustain domestic production of radioisotope thermoelectric generator material for deep space and other science and exploration missions.

Aeronautics and Space Technology:

The bill would require NASA to develop plans and projects to help implement environmentally friendly aircraft.  In addition, the bill would require NASA to reprioritize research and development activities in support of the Next Generation Air Transportation program.

The bill would also require NASA to establish a Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research program within the Space Technology program to provide for the development of payloads for scientific research, technology development, and education.

Education:

NASA would be directed to develop, conduct, support, and promote educational and training activities that benefit the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at all educational levels in the U.S.

The bill would require NASA to promote a broader geographic distribution of research and development by improving infrastructure in states that have traditionally received less NASA research and development funding.

Rescoping and Revitalizing Institutional Capabilities:

The bill would require NASA to focus on ensuring that is structures, facilities, and equipment is effectively aligned with current and future missions that allow it to improve efficiency and productivity.

The bill would also direct NASA to develop a strategy for the maintenance, repair, upgrading, and modernization of NASA’s laboratories, facilities, and equipment.

Possible Member Concerns: 

Some members may be concerned with the increase of more than $270 million in government spending on NASA for FY2011, given the increase in spending in FY2010, which included the additional funds provided in the $1.2 trillion stimulus.  This year’s deficit is expected to be $1.3 trillion, and the FY2011 deficit is estimated to be over $1.3 trillion as well.

However, members may also be concerned that failure of Congress to pass this NASA reauthorization bill would permit the Obama Administration to enact their NASA policy agenda.  Contrary to the President’s policies, this bill would do the following:

  • Continuing with an additional Space Shuttle flight after February 2011;
  • Requiring NASA to develop a heavy lift launcher vehicle immediately following the Space Shuttle’s retirement, which would help preserve the highly educated and skilled workforce that support space vehicles and technology necessary for exploration, as opposed to the president’s request to wait until 2015 to even beginning the planning;
  • Providing less reliance on the private sector for the goals and achievements of space exploration; and
  • Continuing NASA’s legacy of human spaceflight.

Background

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was established in 1958 and is responsible for the nation's civil space program.  Among the agency's flagship programs, human space exploration began with Project Mercury in 1959 and extends through today's Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) programs.

Cost

According to the Congressional Budget Office, S. 3729 would cost $58 billion for NASA over the 2011-2013 periods.