Lawmakers Warn NASA Not To Shortchange Spaceflight

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Fifteen U.S. lawmakers from Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, Utah and Illinois told NASA Administrator Charles Bolden they expect funding for the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket and the agency’s Commercial Crew Program to flow without interruption after Sept. 30, when the U.S. government is expected to begin operating under temporary spending legislation known as a continuing resolution, or CR.

Congress, having failed to pass any 2013 spending bills so far this year, is expected to adopt a six-month CR before the U.S. government’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Writing in an Aug. 30 letter obtained by Space News, the mostly Republican group of lawmakers said they expect funding for Orion, SLS, Commercial Crew and related ground operations work to “continue at their current pace under the CR, at a rate that is consistent with half of the total enacted [2012] funding for each program and project, and that abides by the limits set for each program and for each project.”

Spending on SLS, Orion and associated ground systems totaled almost $3 billion in 2012. The Commercial Crew Program was funded at $406 million.

Rep. Robert Aderholt and Sen. Richard Shelby — both Alabama Republicans — took the lead on the letter, which was signed by a total of nine lawmakers from Alabama, including Rep. Terri Sewell, the group’s lone Democrat.

Alabama is home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, which is leading SLS development.