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Monday, February 6, 2023

Congress Busy Considering Space Financing and Authorizations

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Congress has spent the past few weeks working out the authorizations and funding decisions for next year.

On the policy side, CHIPS and Science passed in both the House and Senate last week. As for funding, policymakers have revised and amended next year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will provide funding for military space programs.

CHIPS and Science

The completed Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act included an authorization bill for NASA — the first new authorization the agency has received in more than five years.

Authorization versus budget: The authorization law under the CHIPS law is a policy law, meaning it has not provided or recommended any new funding to the agency. NASA’s funding is determined by the president’s federal budget applicationwhich was released for FY23 in late March.

Instead, the authorization shows official federal support for a wide variety of NASA programs and initiatives. The CHIPS and Science Act allocates $280 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and R&D, but none of that funding is earmarked for NASA.

Yes please: NASA’s approval confirms federal support for NASA’s selection programs. That includes Artemis, focusing on Mars as the final destination for the next chapter of solar system exploration.

The bill also confirms the US government’s intention to expand ISS operations from 2024 to 2030. This has been NASA’s stance for a while, but in light of recent Roscosmos statementsofficial federal support is an important signal.

“With strong support from the Biden-Harris administration and this authorization, NASA will continue to advance scientific discoveries, enable sustainable aviation, address climate change, and more,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said.

NDAA and space

Next year’s NDAA is going through an in-depth review process. The Senate has not yet voted on the bill.

On Friday, the Senate’s defense subcommittee on appropriations released their upgrade of the bill. This latest release would bring in $792.1 billion for the Pentagon, or $63.6 billion more than the level set in FY22. Space is listed as a priority in the summary of the chairmanwith $2.2 billion set aside to drive R&D of resilient space capabilities.

The top projects, broken down:

  1. $400 million for LEO missile tracking and early warning systems.
  2. $300 million to develop MEO constellation-tracking missiles, with a focus on the polar regions.
  3. $250 million for USSF training infrastructure.
  4. $216 million to purchase two additional launches for the DoD’s missile tracking system.
  5. $100 million for tactically responsive launch efforts.

While we are here

Last Friday, the Senate released a draft credit bill that would fund NASA at ~$26 billion, the full amount requested for FY23, but with slightly modified mission priorities. Funding for space technology was cut, while science and reconnaissance missions were boosted. Call it the James Webb Space Telescope halo effect?

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