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GAO: SLS Will Cost $7 Billion in Next 5 Years, Part of Total $44 Billion Government Spending on Launch

Marcia S. Smith
Posted: 09-Sep-2013
Updated: 09-Sep-2013 07:27 PM

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released today reveals that DOD and NASA plan to spend a total of about $44 billion on space launch activities over the next 5 years and $7 billion of that is for developing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). 

GAO explains that today's report  (a two page letter followed by a set of briefing charts) is only a first step in responding to a request from the House Homeland Security Committee on impediments to economical procurement of government launch vehicles and services.   This report presents data on how much DOD and NASA plan to spend in FY2014-2018 on procurement and on research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) related to launch vehicles and services.  It makes no recommendations.

Using "then-year" dollars, which are adjusted for expected inflation, GAO found that DOD and NASA plan to spend "nearly $44 billion" over that time period, of which about $28 billion (65 percent) is for procurement and approximately $11 billion (26 percent) is for RDT&E.  The rest is for "other," such as personnel and facilities.

Procurement funding is split $16 billion for DOD and $12 billion for NASA.  DOD's costs are largely for procurement of Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) services for national security satellites.  NASA's figure includes funding not only to launch its own satellites and for commercial crew launches, but launching weather satellites for NOAA.

RDT&E spending is split $719 million for DOD and $10.5 billion for NASA.  Of NASA's $10.5 billion, $7 billion is for the Space Launch System and associated ground systems. 

GAO does not specify how much of the RDT&E funding is for commercial crew, but notes that NASA's RDT&E funding drops "steeply, over $300 million from FY 16 to FY 17, largely due to decreased funding for the Commercial Crew Program....."   It also says that NASA could not separate launch costs from International Space Station cargo and crew transportation costs so GAO included all cargo and crew transportation costs.

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