Late Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation negotiated by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) securing NASA’s $19 Billion 2011 fiscal budget.
It is designed to safeguard America’s human spaceflight capabilities, according to supporters, while balancing commercial space investment with a robust mission for NASA.
The bill now lands on President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
“I am extremely pleased that the Houston delegation, including Reps. Pete Olson, Gene Green, John Culberson, Kevin Brady, Al Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Ted Poe, pulled together to gain approval of the Congressional initiative to preserve America’s future in space and protect our proud heritage of exploration,” said Sen. Hutchison. “This bill represents months and months of hard work and reflects a complex compromise that forged a strong balance between investment in new technology and the evolution of the commercial space market with a continued robust mission for NASA.”
“Six months ago we were faced with an Administration proposal that would have ended the era of U.S. dominance in space exploration, threatened our utilization of and investment in the International Space Station, and jeopardized America’s leadership in manned space flight.
“This bill provides needed direction to NASA that will preserve many of the jobs and critical skills the agency would continue to lose amid budgetary uncertainty. Preserving these skills and applying them directly to the new launch capability and other programs will allow our nation to continue to be the global leader in space,” Sen. Hutchison added.
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 addresses the following areas:
International Space Station (ISS)
The bill would extend full utilization of the ISS through at least 2020 and promote safe and effective operation, maintenance, and maximum utilization of the space station by ensuring that replacement or spare parts are available for delivery and installation to assure sustained operations. The bill also reserves research space for private entities to encourage a broader range of scientific research.
Space Shuttle Retirement and Transition
The bill would authorize and direct NASA to fly the space shuttle Launch on Need (LON) flight pending results of a required assessment of safe means of return for astronauts if the shuttle is damaged or unable to return. The bill also would preserve space shuttle capabilities through 2011 to complete the current manifest of scheduled flights.
Commercial Crew and Cargo Transportation Capabilities
The bill would direct NASA to continue the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program (COTS) in support of providing cargo services to the ISS and would establish requirements for the definition of milestones and minimum performance objectives to be achieved before procurement authority is granted for commercially developed crew transportation capability.
Expansion of Human Space Flight Beyond the International Space Station and Low-Earth Orbit
The bill would direct NASA to initiate development of a government-owned, NASA-designed and operated “Space Launch System” (SLS) – a heavy lift launch capability – as soon as practicable and would establish the end of 2016 as the goal for initial capability to deliver crew and cargo to the ISS. To facilitate that schedule, the bill allows modification and/or extension of existing contracts. The bill would require NASA to develop a multi-purpose crew transportation vehicle based on Orion for use with the Space Launch System.
Rescoping and Revitalizing Institutional Capabilities
The bill would require a study to identify an approach for the most efficient use and maintenance of NASA facilities and infrastructure, paying specific attention to eliminating unneeded duplication of infrastructure. It would also prohibit NASA from making any movement or termination of contractors or civil servants or any reorganization or Reduction in Force for reasons other than cause, until Congress receives the required reports and grants legislative authority to make such changes.