NASA space technology programs need to take tough decisions on what to fund

A budget that is “very restricting” for NASA when it comes to making difficult choices about which research projects it can support and how much money it has. The fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending bill, which was passed in mid-March, allotted $1.1 billion for space technology, the same amount that space technology received in 2020 and 2021.

In its request for the 2022 financial year, NASA requested $1.425 billion for space technology. The House and Senate appropriations bills fell short of that amount, but they did provide a boost to $1.25 billion in the Senate’s version and $1.28 billion in the House’s version. Last year’s omnibus bill, which was negotiated by House and Senate appropriators, brought in a total of $1.1 billion.

“It’s still a perfect budget for us, but it’s also very constraining for what we were hoping for,” Jim Reuter, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said at an April 22 meeting of the National Academies’ Space Technology Industry-Government-University Roundtable (STIGUR). “It’s a challenge for us.”

Although the administration’s proposed budget for NASA this year included an increase, reports indicate that the space agency will have to cut hundreds of millions of dollars from its expenditure plan. According to a report by The Washington Post, NASA is still developing an operational plan for fiscal year 2022, which must be approved by Congress.

However, he displayed a graph that showed funding levels for some Space Technology Mission Directorate programs mentioned in the omnibus bill, such as nuclear thermal propulsion and the OSAM-1 satellite servicing project.

With those costs subtracted, the rest of the directorate will have $328 million to allocate, compared to $705 million in the first budget request. The proposed reduction in funding for new projects is expected to have a significant impact on their development. “We can do very little on new activities in FY22, and we’ve basically pushed everything off to FY23,” he added.

This includes the directorate’s Game Changing Development program, which helps scientists to go from lab research to complete prototypes. “That’s where we’ve been trying to get a lot of growth in recent years,” he continued. “It has a big impact on costs,” he added, stressing the directorate’s financial squeeze.

However, Reuter was optimistic about the future. In its fiscal year 2023 budget plan released on March 28, NASA sought $1.438 billion for space technology. He sought input from members at the end of the half-day STIGUR meeting on how to create budget advocacy in the space technology sector.

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