81.7 F
85.8 F
82.1 F
66.5 F

Big news for Huntsville: Shelby announces $1.7 billion for space launch system

Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee
Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), today announced that a Senate Appropriations subcommittee allocated nearly $18 billion to NASA for the 2015 Fiscal Year, including $1.7 billion allocated to rocket development for the Space Launch System (SLS) currently underway at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Sen. Shelby is Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice Science and Related Agencies (CJS), which passed the bill.

“The bill maintains focus on efforts to develop a heavy lift launch vehicle, or SLS, and preserve the mission schedule for a 2017 launch by requiring NASA to follow its own internal guidance regarding joint confidence levels in future funding requests,” said Shelby. “In order to maintain the schedule for a 2017 launch date, the bill includes $1.7 billion for SLS rocket development. The recommendation also includes funding for ongoing activities of the International Space Station and other important science research missions.

Shelby also announced what his office describes as “critical taxpayer protections in the bill pertaining to NASA’s commercial crew and commercial cargo missions,” a public-private partnership launched under President Obama in which the federal government awards money to private companies in an effort to stimulate growth in private sector space exploration.

“I want to commend the Chair for working with me to include language that provides greater accountability and budgetary transparency in the commercial crew program and future commercial cargo missions,” said Shelby. “We must ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value for their dollar and I believe that this language will make that happen.”

The competition for funding has been intense between the Huntsville-based SLS and the Commercial Crew program. Over the last several years, Commercial Crew has seen its budget has continued to rise, while SLS has taken hits. This has happened in spite of Commercial Crew coming out on the losing end of NASA’s independent cost assessments, which are external checks to see if NASA’s schedule and cost projections are reasonable.

Shelby has been a vocal proponent of the SLS program, and today’s news will undoubtedly be met with applause in north Alabama.

RELATED: Shelby advocates for Huntsville-based space program, asks for more accountability

Here is a quick breakdown of NASA funding in the subcommittee’s appropriations bill:

  • NASA is funded at $17.9 billion, which is $254 million (1.4%) above its current funding level.
  • Space exploration is funded at $4.4 billion, a $254 million (6.2%) increase above the current level, including $1.7 billion for the SLS Rocket, $1.2 billion for the Orion Capsule, and $805 million for commercial crew.
  • The bill includes language requiring NASA to ensure that companies participating in the competition for the development of Commercial Crew launch vehicles be required to submit certified cost and pricing data.
  • The bill includes language requiring NASA to demand certified cost and pricing data for the new round of contracts for future cargo resupply missions.

Follow Cliff on Twitter @Cliff_Sims

Don’t miss out!  Subscribe today to have Alabama’s leading headlines delivered to your inbox.