COCOA BEACH, Fla. — If Congress halves President Barack Obama’s 2013 budget request for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program like it did last year, it may not be worth pursuing the program since the vehicles might not be ready in time to support the international space station, Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight development at NASA headquarters, said Feb. 14 at an industry briefing here.
The United States has committed to funding the space station through 2020. While NASA hopes that commitment will be extended, there is no guarantee. NASA requested $850 million for its Commercial Crew Program for 2012 but Congress approved only $406 million, prompting NASA to overhaul its acquisition strategy for an effort aiming to fund initial development of at least two privately owned crew taxis.
If a similar cut is made to NASA’s $830 million Commercial Crew request for 2013, “I would say it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to do this program,” McAlister told reporters. “We couldn’t get there.”
NASA is asking Congress to provide $830 million for Commercial Crew in 2013, a level agency officials say is needed to keep the program on track to conduct its first crewed flights in 2017.
“Just one test fight is going to be a couple of hundred million dollars, probably. So that’s your whole year’s funding, right? So it doesn’t really make sense at that kind of funding level. If we felt like that’s all we could get, we would definitely re-evaluate the program,” he said.
McAlister added that he is hopeful the budget request will be supported. “The president’s budget request sort of balanced all the things NASA is trying to do. We’ve got several months ahead of us to communicate with Congress the importance of that.”
Obama’s 2013 budget request was sent to U.S. lawmakers Feb. 13. The president is seeking a total of $17.711 billion for NASA, or about $59 million less than it received for 2012.