Congress Poised to Approve $17.8 Billion for NASA in Must-Pass Bill

Artist's concept of the Space Launch System and the mobile launch platform rolling to the launch pad.
Artist's concept of the Space Launch System and the mobile launch platform rolling to the launch pad. (Image credit: NASA)

WASHINGTON — NASA stands to receive $17.8 billion for 2012 under a $1 trillion compromise spending measure House and Senate budget negotiators released Nov. 14.

The NASA funding, which is $684 million below the agency’s 2011 level and $924 million less than the White House requested, is part of a must-pass spending package Congress is poised to adopt by Nov. 18.

The package, a so-called minibus combining three previously separate spending bills into one, was hammered out during a legislative conference committee House and Senate appropriators convened Nov. 3. Lawmakers included in the minibus a clean four-week extension of the so-called continuing resolution that has kept the federal government operating since the new budget year began Oct. 1. Congress must pass this legislation by Nov. 18 to prevent a government shutdown.

According to a summary of the final conference report posted Nov. 14 on the House Appropriations Committee’s website, the $17.8 billion for NASA would break down as follows:

  • $3.8 billion for Space Exploration, which is $30 million below the 2011 level. This includes funding above NASA’s request to meet congressionally mandated deadlines for the Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket and Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.
  • $4.2 billion for Space Operations, which is $1.3 billion below the 2011 level.
  • $5.1 billion for Science programs, or about $155 million above the 2011 level. This includes additional funding for the overbudget James Webb Space Telescope program that will be offset by “commensurate reductions in other programs.”

The minibus also includes $4.9 billion for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a 7 percent increase over 2011. Some $924 million of that amount is set aside for the Joint Polar Satellite System “to ensure the continuity of critical weather forecast data.” Lawmakers, however, denied NOAA’s request for $322 million to establish a new NOAA Climate Service.

This story was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Editor-in-Chief, SpaceNews

Brian Berger is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews, a bi-weekly space industry news magazine, and He joined SpaceNews covering NASA in 1998 and was named Senior Staff Writer in 2004 before becoming Deputy Editor in 2008. Brian's reporting on NASA's 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident and received the Communications Award from the National Space Club Huntsville Chapter in 2019. Brian received a bachelor's degree in magazine production and editing from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.