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Bolden Blasts Senate Appropriations Subcommittee Cut to Commercial Crew

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 10-Jun-2015
Updated: 10-Jun-2015 07:41 PM

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden fired back at the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the agency because of its cut to the commercial crew program.  The subcommittee marked up the FY2016 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) funding bill this morning, cutting the $1.244 billion request for commercial crew to $900 million.  Full committee markup is tomorrow.

In a statement, Bolden said the cut would mean continued reliance on Russia to take American astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and putting money into Russia's economy instead of our own.  Bolden said:

"I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Appropriations Committee does not fully support NASA's plan to once again launch American astronauts from U.S. soil as soon as possible, and instead favors continuing to write checks to Russia.   Remarkably, the Senate reduces funding for our commercial crew program further than the House already does compared to the President’s Budget.   By gutting this program and turning our backs on U.S. industry, NASA will be forced to continue to rely on Russia to get its astronauts to space – and continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into the Russian economy rather than our own.  I support investing in America so that we can once again launch our astronauts on American vehicles.”

Bolden has been stressing the need for full funding of the commercial crew request repeatedly this year.   He warns that without full funding, NASA may have to renegotiate its milestone-based fixed-price contracts with Boeing and SpaceX and delay the ability of the United States to once again launch people into space.   NASA has not been able to launch anyone to space since the space shuttle program was terminated in 2011. 

Bolden points out at every opportunity that if Congress had fully funded the commercial crew program from the beginning, the spacecraft would be flying this year.  Instead, the goal now is 2017.  Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said on the Senate floor today that if the subcommittee recommendation is adopted, it will mean yet another two-year delay.

While many of those in Congress who authorize and appropriate money to NASA agree that America needs its own ability to launch people into space and object to the need to pay Russia for such services, some insist that NASA should support only one company to provide commercial crew services, not two.  NASA insists that it needs at least two competitors for redundancy in case one of the systems has a failure and to keep prices down.

NASA awarded Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCAP) contracts to Boeing ($4.2 billion) and SpaceX ($2.6 billion) last fall as the last phase of the commercial crew program.


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