Generic continuing resolution feature art. Credit: SpaceNews graphic by Lance Marburger

WASHINGTON — A continuing resolution passed by Congress Sept. 30 narrowly avoided a shutdown of the federal government, keeping agencies funded through early December.

The bill, which funds the federal government at fiscal year 2015 levels through Dec. 11, passed the Senate on a 78–20 vote and then the House on a 277–151 vote. President Obama signed the bill into law late Sept. 30, just hours before the fiscal year ended.

The resolution avoided a federal government shutdown, which would have taken place Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2016 fiscal year. The threat of a shutdown loomed over the government for much of September as Congress debated whether to include provisions in a short-term spending bill that would defund Planned Parenthood.

The continuing resolution that Congress passed was a “clean” one, without any controversial provisions. The bill does include flexibility for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to spend money on the Joint Polar Satellite System at levels “necessary to maintain the planned launch schedules.”

The bill does not, however, include a similar provision requested by the White House that would have allowed NASA to fund its commercial crew program at a rate higher than 2015, when the program received $805 million. NASA requested $1.243 billion for commercial crew for 2016, while House and Senate appropriations bills provide $1 billion and $900 million, respectively, for the program.

The continuing resolution does include one NASA accounting provision, extending the agency’s authority to spend funds related to closeout of the space shuttle program that would have expired Sept. 30. The bill extends NASA’s ability to spend those remaining funds to cover any remaining closeout obligations, which the administration estimated at $68 million, through fiscal year 2021.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...