* Legislators iron out $17.8 billion plan for NASA
* Hubble successor telescope capped at $8 billion
* $406 million earmarked for space taxis
By Irene Klotz
HOUSTON, Nov 15 A compromise spending plan for
NASA preserves the over-budget replacement for the Hubble Space
Telescope and halves President Barack Obama's request for money
to spur development of commercial space taxis, officials said
Overall, the U.S. space agency would receive $17.8 billion
for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 - $924 million less than
the White House requested and $684 million less than it
received this year.
The compromise, approved by a House and Senate conference
committee, is part of a "minibus" appropriations bill that also
includes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
and the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial
Space Transportation. The full House is expected to consider
the bill on Wednesday.
The spending plan, which was posted on a Congressional
website on Tuesday, authorizes $3.8 billion for human space
exploration programs, including $1.9 billion for a proposed
heavy-lift rocket and $1.2 billion for a deep space capsule to
fly astronauts to the moon, asteroids and other destinations in
the inner solar system as a follow-on program to the
International Space Station.
A House bid to cancel NASA's over-budget James Webb Space
Telescope, a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, was
scuttled, though the compromise bill caps spending on the
program at $8 billion.
Overall, NASA's science programs would receive $5.1
billion, about $155 million more than its 2011 budget. About
$530 million of that amount would go toward the Webb
NASA has said it would delay other science programs to keep
the telescope on track for launch in 2018.
The bill cuts Obama's request for $850 million to speed up
development of commercial passenger spaceships to $406
"We're always appreciative of whatever dollars the
appropriators appropriate to us," Kathy Nado, a manager at NASA
headquarters, said at the American Astronautical Society
meeting in Houston. "Whatever dollars they give us we will be
able to effectively spend."
The agency is currently funding space taxi development work
at Boeing and three privately held companies - Space
Exploration Technologies, Sierra Nevada Corp., and Blue Origin.
It had hoped for enough money to keep at least two and possibly
three teams working on spaceships that could ferry astronauts
to the space station, a $100 billion laboratory that flies
about 240 miles (386 km) above Earth.
Since the space shuttle program ended this summer, the
United States has been dependent on Russia to fly crews to the
station, at a cost of more than $50 million per person. NASA
had hoped for a U.S. alternative by 2016.
Nado declined to say how the shortfall would affect NASA's
spending on space taxis.
The bill adds $470 million to NASA's budget to cover costs
of terminating a pension fund for workers who were employed by
prime shuttle contractor United Space Alliance, a joint venture
of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp .