The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY 2016 Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Bill.  The bill increases NASA’s funding by $279 million above the FY 2015 budget, and provides $231 million for the Advanced Exploration Systems (AES) program.  Moreover, the Senate provided direction for the AES program stating that NASA should “continue to develop and test technology for supporting human spaceflight, including habitat systems such as the Exploration Augmentation Module.”

AES is conducting critical work to ensure that habitats, landers, and other technologies necessary to support human spaceflight beyond low Earth orbit are developed, tested, and deployed.  Under the auspices of innovative programs such as Lunar CATALYST and NextSTEPS, AES is partnering with industry while demanding substantial private sector investments and performance.  By fully funding AES, the Senate is sending a strong message to NASA that the Agency must move with alacrity to fabricate hardware that will support the utilization of transportation systems such as SLS, Orion, and commercial crew spacecraft.

“AES will serve a critical role in ensuring NASA’s human exploration is sustainable,” said CSF President Eric Stallmer.  “The Agency has invested tens of billions of dollars in transportation systems that we hope will become available soon, but this investment must be matched with the development of habitats, landers, and other technologies for actual missions to be conducted in low Earth Orbit and beyond.”

AES leadership has shown great skill in crafting procurements that garner private sector dollars multiplying the impact of federal funds.  However, the time has come to move beyond studies and analysis.  “With SLS, Orion, and commercial crew all becoming operational by 2018 or earlier, we are already behind schedule in producing hardware for these transportation systems to utilize in performing their various missions,” Stallmer said.

Per Congressional direction, AES and NASA must commit to a plan for hardware development and deployment as soon as possible.  “We believe the private sector stands ready to match and even exceed NASA investments, but NASA must act as a catalyst, providing incentives such as launching hardware built by the private sector and purchasing private sector services,” according to Stallmer. “The Senate Appropriations Committee has shown great leadership and vision relative to this issue. CSF applauds their work and commitment to advancing a more sustainable human exploration program.”

The bill in it its current form, however, requires additional work. For example, CSF remains deeply concerned about the bill’s failure to adequately and responsibly fund the Commercial Crew program. Please see last week’s CSF press release elucidating CSF and NASA’s independent Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel’s (ASAP) concerns regarding the inadequate funding.

About the Commercial Spaceflight Federation

The mission of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) is to promote the development of commercial human spaceflight, pursue ever-higher levels of safety, and share best practices and expertise throughout the industry. The Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s member companies, which include commercial spaceflight developers, operators, spaceports, suppliers, and service providers, are creating thousands of high-tech jobs nationwide, working to preserve American leadership in aerospace through technology innovation, and inspiring young people to pursue careers in science and engineering. For more information please visit or contact Executive Director Tommy Sanford at or at 202.715.2924.