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Senate Approves NASA Bill, Extra Space Shuttle Flight

WASHINGTON?The U.S. Senate passed a NASA authorization bill Thursday that wouldadd aspace shuttle flight to the manifest next year and require the spaceagency toget started immediately on a heavy-lift rocket capable of supportingmannedmissions beyond low-Earth orbit.

Thebillalso authorizesfundingfor NASA's proposedcommercial crew initiative, but at a level below the agency's request.

"Thisbill offers a blueprint to move America's civilianspaceprogramforward in a smart, fiscally responsible way," Sen. John D. (Jay)Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science andTransportation Committee, said in a statement. "We've had to take aclear,hard look at what we want from NASA in the years and decades to come.We'veasked the tough questions. The result is a truly bipartisan bill thatwill helprefocus and reinvigorate the agency, while making key investments inaeronautics, science, and education. I'm proud the Senate has moved itone stepcloser to becoming law."

Acompanion NASAauthorizationbillapproved by the House Science & Technology Committee July 22took a harderline on NASA's planned $3.3 billion investment in a commercial crewtransportation system over the next three years, approving $150 millionthrough2013.

TheHouseScience & Technology Committee's bill (H.R. 5781) also wouldcontinue muchof the work being done under NASA'sConstellationprogram,a 5-year-old effort to build new rockets and spacecraft optimized forlunarmissions that President Barack Obama targeted for termination in his2011spending proposal delivered to Congress in February.

OpponentsofH.R. 5781 prevented the bill from going to the floor for a vote beforetheHouse recessed July 30.

Thisstory was provided by SpaceNews,dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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