WASHINGTON — NASA would see a $300 million funding decrease in 2011 compared to 2010 under a bill introduced Feb. 11 by the U.S. House Appropriations Committee that would fund the U.S. federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

The measure, to be considered on the House floor the week of Feb. 14, would trim $100 billion from the 2011 budget request submitted by U.S. President Barack Obama last February. NASA would lose $578 million relative to that request, which translates to a $303 million decrease from the previous year.

The Obama administration requested $19 billion for NASA in 2011. The agency’s current budget is on par with the $18.74 billion Congress appropriated in 2010 under a stopgap funding measure, known as a continuing resolution (CR), that expires March 4.

According to a press release issued by the committee Feb. 11, the bill would enable NASA to fulfill direction in the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, which directs the space agency to build a heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule for space exploration. NASA is barred under current law from terminating contracts associated with the Constellation program, a collection of development projects intended to replace the space shuttle and eventually deliver astronauts to the Moon that Obama seeks to cancel. NASA officials have said the prohibition, included in its 2010 spending bill and sustained under the CR, is preventing the agency from carrying out the direction in the authorization act, which specifies that the agency leverage space shuttle and Constellation contracts and technology.

The bill also provides the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) with the funding necessary to move ahead with a new polar orbiting weather satellite system, known as the Joint Polar Satellite System. That system is being developed by NASA.

“The bill includes necessary funding increases in two areas: to prevent some work stoppage on NOAA’s weather satellite program that will help protect Americans from weather-related natural disasters, ” the  press release states. “The CR also provides budget flexibility within overall reduced funding levels to allow the Department of Justice to meet high-priority requirements and NASA to carry out its authorized activities.

Warren Ferster is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews and is responsible for all the news and editorial coverage in the weekly newspaper, the spacenews.com Web site and variety of specialty publications such as show dailies. He manages a staff of seven reporters...