Urgent Action Needed to Obtain ‘NO’ Votes on the Pork-Laden House Bill
The Space Frontier Foundation (SFF) called attention today to the latest battle taking place in the US House of Representatives that holds enormous implications for the future of spaceflight. In the next 18 hours, the House leadership will decide whether to allow a vote on the pork-laden House version of the NASA bill or instead pass the better Senate compromise. The SFF asks all commercial space supporters to contact their Congressman. Encourage them to vote ‘No’ on HR 5781 and allow a vote on the Senate version.
The House version of the bill, written by Chairman Bart Gordon, would cut NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by 95%. This reduces it to a collection of studies instead of real hardware. The House bill tries to fund the over-budget Ares I system, creating a government-subsidized competitor to the commercial sector. The decision on whether to allow a vote on the House bill will occur in less than 18 hours.
“Supporters of commercial space would like to see the funding level for commercial crew restored, and to tell the House to postpone the vote and instead pass the Senate version. The Senate version isn’t perfect either, but the House version is a disaster,” said SFF Executive Director, William Watson. “The House bill ignores all of the recommendations of the Augustine Committee and spends more money per year on buying Russian Soyuz seats than it does investing in America’s own commercial space sector. I urge all of our members to call their local Congressmen with 2 messages. First, ask your Congressmen to vote ‘No’ on the House bill HR 5781. Second, ask your Congressmen to request the Congressional leadership to allow a vote on the Senate version instead. Otherwise, we’ll be stuck with the bad House version.”
Summary of House Authorization Bill (HR 5781)
- Keeps Ares I, Orion, and Heavy-Lift Without Providing Any Extra Money: The bill keeps all parts of the Constellation program and requires that a government-owned and operated system be built to fly astronauts to Low Earth Orbit by December 31, 2015. This system must leverage the existing Ares I and Orion assets, be as safe as the Ares-Orion system, and be able to evolve into a heavy lift vehicle by 2020.
Tries to Do Constellation With Half the Needed Budget: The bill authorizes about $4 billion a year for this program to build Ares I, Orion, and Heavy-Lift despite the Augustine Committee saying it would take $7-8 billion annually to do exactly that. Moreover, the House bill effectively says ‘The NASA Administrator has 180 days to figure it out how to fit this in the budget.’ The House Authorizers are avoiding making any tough decisions and instead pass the buck to NASA.
Exploration Technology and Robotics Basically Canceled, and 21st Century Spaceport Cut: While the Office of the CTO Bobby Braun’s Space Technology Program is funded, the much larger Exploration Technology and Robotic Precursor programs are cut by 100% in the first two years, by 98% in the third year, 96% in the fourth year, and 95% in the fifth year. The 21st Century Spaceport funding is cut by 80%.
Essentially Cancels Commercial Crew: Instead of being funded at $6 billion over 5 years as the President requested, commercial crew is funded at $250 million over 5 years, a 95% reduction, and the bill also institutes a vaguely defined $100 million per year loan guarantee program. The loan guarantee program would supposedly offer loans to commercial providers under a set of onerous restrictions, including requiring 25% private financing and ability to demonstrate full financing of the project.
Onerous Restrictions on Commercial: In addition to the virtual elimination of funding, several onerous restrictions are placed on commercial that may cause multi-year delays:
- Misleading Description: The House Science Committee website contains a misleading statement that the bill contains over $4 billion for commercial spaceflight, when in fact that number includes the existing $3.5 billion for CRS cargo contracts, which is not a new program.
- Commercial Cargo Money is Canceled: The bill cuts Commercial Cargo in FY11 down to $14 million, a 95% cut from the Administration request of $312 million. This jeopardizes the viability of the International Space Station.