NASA Space Station Manager Warns of Sequestration Impact

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DENVER — NASA’s international space station (ISS) program manager warned researchers that if budget sequestration is not averted for 2014, then research utilization of the orbiting outpost could suffer.

“Sequestration is a major issue today. We have taken significant budget cuts this year,” Michael Suffredini said during the International Space Station Research and Development Conference here July 16-18 .

Sequestration — the across-the-board federal budget cuts set in motion by the Budget Control Act of 2011 — sapped roughly $900 million from NASA’s 2013 budget, leaving the agency with a $16.9 billion top line. Some programs were cut more than others in order to keep certain agency priorities, such at the James Webb Space Telescope and Commercial Crew Program, on track.

If sequestration forces NASA to take another five-percent or greater reduction in 2014, “then it’s likely to have impact in our ability to fully utilize the ISS,” Suffredini told attendees of the conference, which was organized by the American Astronautical Society in cooperation with NASA and the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, the Florida-based nonprofit responsible for managing non-NASA research aboard the U.S. portion of the space station.

“With the cuts we have been given and where I think I can find money, we’ll be okay. If we get a big cut next year, which sometimes you hear, then it will be a challenge for us,” Suffredini said. “But we’ll deal with it if it comes.”

The White House has asked Congress for just over $3 billion for the international space station program for 2014. That figure — up slightly from 2012 — includes $1.3 billion for space station operations and maintenance, $1.5 billion for crew and cargo transportation and $226 million for research.