Washington, March 24 (IANS) NASA’s will get $20.7 billion — $1.1 billion more than 2017 funding and $1.6 billion above the White House request — under a spending bill that cleared Congress this week and was signed by President Trump on Friday.
A big beneficiary will be the planned rocket to take astronauts into deep space and onto Mars, the Space Launch System (SLS), which will get $2.15 billion, and the Orion crew capsule, which will launch on top of the SLS, will get $1.35 billion, AL.com reported.
According to a report spaceflightnow.com, the NASA funding was part of a $1.3 trillion federal spending package that keeps the government running through the end of fiscal year 2018 — September 30 — after multiple stopgap budgets in recent months.
The budget provides $350 million for construction of a second SLS mobile launch platform, a project which, NASA believes, could shorten the gap between the first and second Space Launch System flights.
Funding for a second SLS launch platform was not included in the White House’s fiscal year 2019 budget proposal.
Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s outgoing acting administrator set to retire at the end of April, told a House subcommittee on March 7 that there was insufficient money in the agency’s budget to build a second SLS platform without delaying or canceling other projects.
While responding to a question during the hearing, Lightfoot said that a second SLS mobile launch platform would be better for the program in an “ideal world.”
“I could fly humans quicker, probably in the 2022 timeframe,” with a second mobile launch platform, Lightfoot said.