WASHINGTON — A fixed budget for NASA’s space technology programs is “very restrictive” for the agency as it faces tough decisions about what efforts it can fund and in what amounts.
NASA received $1.1 billion for space technology in the fiscal year 2022 overhead bill passed in mid-March. That’s the same amount space technology received in fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
NASA had requested $1.425 billion for space technology in its proposal for fiscal year 2022. Versions of the House and Senate appropriations bills fell short of that figure, but did offer some increase, to $1.25 billion. in the Senate version and $1.28 billion in the House. The omnibus version, developed by House and Senate appropriators, went back to $1.1 billion.
“It’s still a really good budget for us, but it’s also very restrictive for what we were expecting,” Jim Reuter, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology, said at an April 22 meeting of the Space Technology Industry Academies. National-Government-University Round Table (STIGUR). “It’s a challenge for us.”
NASA is still working on an operating plan for fiscal year 2022, which must then receive approval from Congress, so Reuter offered few details on how the reduced budget would affect space technology programs. However, he did show a chart that listed funding levels for some programs in the Space Technology Mission Directorate, such as nuclear thermal propulsion and the OSAM-1 satellite servicing mission, whose funding was specified in the bill. general. When those programs are accounted for, the rest of the leadership will have $328 million to spend, compared to $705 million in the original budget request.
Proposed new projects are likely to bear the brunt of the reduced budget. “There’s very little we can do about new activities in FY22, and we’ve pretty much carried all of them into FY23,” he said.
That includes the Game Changing Development program within the directorate to advance technologies from lab concepts to full prototypes. “That’s where the biggest growth we’ve been trying to achieve in the last couple of years,” he said.
Existing space technology programs, like many others at the agency, face rising costs and schedule delays related to the pandemic and associated supply chain issues. “COVID has been hitting pretty hard. It’s a significant cost impact,” he said, exacerbating the budget crisis facing management.
Reuter, however, was hopeful about the future. NASA requested $1.438 billion for space technology in its fiscal year 2023 budget proposal released on March 28. Near the end of the half-day STIGUR meeting, he sought input from members on how to promote the budget in the space technology community.
“It is not my intention to complain about that. It’s a big budget for us,” he said of the 2022 budget. “It’s just that we’re also optimistic in FY23, we can get back to a pattern of growth.”