House and Senate appropriators are proposing 7 percent and 3 percent funding increases, respectively, for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in fiscal year 2019. Within SMD, the House proposal would increase funding for Planetary Science by 24 percent, while the Senate proposal would increase funding for Astrophysics by 12 percent.
NASA’s budget appears set to continue along its recent upward trajectory, with House and Senate appropriators respectively proposing 4 percent and 3 percent increases to the agency’s topline for fiscal year 2019. Some of the funding increase would go to the Science Mission Directorate (SMD), which the House and Senate proposals would boost by 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively, to bring its budget into the vicinity of $6.5 billion.
Led by Rep. John Culberson (R-TX), who chairs the subcommittee responsible for NASA’s budget, House appropriators are continuing their push to rapidly increase funding for SMD’s Planetary Science Division. Under their proposal, its budget would increase 24 percent to almost $2.8 billion, roughly doubling its level from as recently as fiscal year 2014. Much of the increase would go to the development of two probes to Jupiter’s moon Europa. By contrast, Senate appropriators propose to cut the division’s budget about 1 percent.
Both the House and Senate would fund the Astrophysics Division’s flagship Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST), which the Trump administration is proposing to cancel. However, the House would provide only about half the funding required for the mission to launch as planned in the mid-2020s. Senate appropriators would provide full funding for WFIRST and increase the Astrophysics budget by 12 percent to over $1.5 billion.
Under both the House and Senate proposals, funding for the Earth Science Division would remain nearly constant at $1.9 billion, a rejection of the administration’s proposed 7 percent cut. The House proposes a flat budget for the Heliophysics Division at $689 million, while the Senate would provide a 5 percent increase.
Further budget details are available in FYI’s Federal Science Budget Tracker. Additional funding direction and policy guidance can be found in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee reports on the bills, and a side-by-side comparison of report language is provided at the end of this bulletin.
The House spending proposals for the Planetary Science Division have set the pace for rapid increases in its budget since fiscal year 2014.
Europa missions. The House proposes $545 million for the planned Europa Clipper mission, which will conduct multiple flybys of the moon, and $195 million for a separate Lander mission currently in its early formulation stage. Congress provided the missions with a combined budget of $275 million in fiscal year 2017 and $595 million this year. This rapid rate of increase reflects House appropriators’ insistence, over the objections of the administration, that the Clipper should follow an ambitious schedule to launch in 2022 and that the Lander should follow two years later.
The Senate report proposes the requested $265 million for the Clipper and notes that “a portion of the fiscal year 2019 funding may be derived from the project’s substantial prior year balances,” suggesting NASA has not been able to completely spend the funds Congress has already allocated. The Senate does not specify a funding level for the Lander.
Lunar science and exploration. The House and Senate reports agree NASA should proceed with its proposal to include scientific payloads and instruments on commercial lunar exploration missions. The Senate proposes NASA begin sending “at least one robotic mission to the lunar surface per year” beginning in 2020. The House proposes directing NASA to submit a “multi-year plan with specific goals and funding requirements” before allowing it to expend funds on new lunar missions. However, both proposals agree to provide the $218 million the administration requested for lunar science, with $200 million for new programs and $18 million for continued operation of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Near-Earth objects and planetary defense. The House and Senate propose $160 million and $157 million, respectively, for the detection of near-Earth objects (NEOs) and planetary defense.
Both would at least fund the administration’s request of $90 million to develop the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. NASA is planning to launch DART by summer 2021 to physically impact a nearby system of two asteroids and make Earth-based observations of resulting changes in the system’s motion.
The House proposes to increase funding for the NEOCam mission, a proposed space-based telescope for detecting NEOs, by $10 million. NEOCam has been competing with science mission proposals for funding but has not yet been selected to proceed into development. The House report notes, “While such a telescope might provide slightly less scientific data than other proposed projects, the Committee believes the trade-off for the defense of the planet is worthwhile.”
Over the past several budget cycles, the administration, House, and Senate have proposed combined funding for the Astrophysics Division and James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) at between $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion.
For fiscal year 2019, however, the administration has proposed decreasing the division’s budget to under $1.2 billion for the foreseeable future, which would not accommodate the continuation of WFIRST. The Senate, by contrast, proposes fully funding WFIRST and increasing the division budget to over $1.5 billion, while the House splits the difference, proposing a 4 percent, $51 million cut, keeping the Astrophysics budget above $1.3 billion and slowing work on WFIRST.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope. The Senate proposal of $352 million for WFIRST exceeds by $50 million what NASA anticipated requesting for fiscal year 2019 before the administration decided the mission should be terminated. The Senate report rejects the proposed termination while conveying concerns about growing mission costs and instructing NASA to abide by a “firm” $3.2 billion lifecycle cost cap. The House report specifies $150 million for WFIRST and expresses similar concerns.
NASA recently descoped WFIRST to mitigate growth in the mission’s projected costs that resulted from changes in its proposed design. Although NASA has noted it descoped the mission early enough to check costs before they resulted in rising expenditures, Congress has regarded the episode as reminiscent of the ballooning costs experienced by JWST during its development.
James Webb Space Telescope. Although NASA’s recent delay of JWST’s launch to 2020 has threatened to raise its development cost above its congressionally imposed $8 billion cap, NASA has not yet requested any additional funding for the mission. Both the House and Senate proposals meet the administration’s $305 million request while admonishing NASA for the delays and directing it to provide frequent updates. NASA is expected to report to Congress by the end of this month with an updated launch schedule and determination of whether the cap will be breached.
Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). In fiscal year 2018 appropriations, Congress included report language effectively preventing NASA from conducting a senior review of SOFIA, an airborne telescope, for its first 20 years of operation. The Senate proposes to reverse that decision, stating, “NASA is encouraged to review SOFIA at the appropriate time to determine if this mission should have its operational phase extended.” However, the House report asserts that SOFIA is far from the end of its anticipated lifespan and that any steps NASA takes to initiate a senior review would be “deemed preparation for shutdown.”
While in previous years the House has proposed significant cuts to the Earth Science Division, this year the House and Senate agree that its current $1.9 billion funding level is roughly appropriate. They propose a 1 percent cut and 1 percent increase, respectively.
Proposed cancellations rejected. Reinforcing report language from fiscal year 2018 appropriations, the Senate report once again explicitly funds the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud ocean Ecosystem (PACE) mission, CLARREO Pathfinder instrument, Orbiting Carbon Observatory 3 (OCO-3) instrument, and Earth-facing instruments on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR). The Trump administration has proposed cancelling these items in its budget requests for both fiscal years 2018 and 2019.
Carbon Monitoring System. The Senate report also proposes $10 million for NASA’s Climate Monitoring System (CMS), which NASA recently announced it would cancel. The House Appropriations Committee attached an amendment, sponsored by Culberson, to its bill, also specifying $10 million for CMS.
The House proposes to hold funding for the Heliophysics Division at $689 million, while the Senate proposes an increase to $720 million.
DRIVE Initiative. As it did last year, the Senate report expresses support for the “Diversify, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate” (DRIVE) Initiative recommended in the last National Academies heliophysics decadal survey, including its emphasis on increasing research funding and establishing a set of Heliophysics Science Centers.
Space weather. The Senate report proposes $15 million for space weather research, up from $10 million last year.
Office of Education
As they did in fiscal year 2018, both House and Senate appropriators reject the administration’s proposal to terminate NASA’s Office of Education. The Senate report proposes to increase its budget from $100 million to $110 million and rename it “STEM Opportunities”. As it did last year, the House proposes $90 million for the office.
The following expandable tabs offer side-by-side comparisons of language from the House and Senate appropriators' reports on their respective bills. This language details funding proposals, policy guidance, and the appropriators' views on different research programs.
Senate: The Committee does not adopt the proposed reconfiguration of NASA's account structure. Instead, the Committee has maintained the same account structure as fiscal year 2018 and has chosen to rename the Education account to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] Opportunities.
Cost overruns and launch delays
Senate: NASA is directed to continue providing the Committee with a quarterly launch schedule, by mission, that describes risks associated with launch delays due to problems with the launch vehicle, impacts of launch delays to other missions in the launch queue, and a budget estimate of the anticipated carrying costs for missed launch windows.
The Committee is counting on NASA to maintain focus on improving oversight and accountability throughout the agency. NASA's acquisition management continues to be on the GAO "high risk" list. GAO's most recent assessment of NASA's large-scale projects found the agency's cost and schedule performance on major projects has deteriorated since last year. Since May 2017, the average launch delay has increased from 7 to 12 months and development cost growth is at least 18.8 percent, up from 15.6 percent in 2017. NASA is directed to cooperate fully and to provide timely program analysis, evaluation data, and relevant information to the GAO so that GAO can report to Congress shortly after the annual budget submission of the President and semiannually thereafter on the status of large-scale NASA programs, projects, and activities based on its review of this information.
In addition, NASA is directed to provide the Committee, with its budget justification, the reserves assumed by NASA to be necessary within the amount proposed for each directorate, theme, program, project, and activity, or, if the proposed funding level for a directorate, theme, program, project, or activity is based on confidence level budgeting, the confidence level and reserves assumed in the proposed funding level.
The Committee understands that NASA projects undergo major reviews in addition to regular oversight throughout the year. When one of these reviews results in changing the cost profile of a project in the current or budget request year, the Committee expects to be informed in a timely fashion so that its actions can reflect the most recent NASA analysis and expectation. Keeping the Committee up to date should reduce NASA's propensity to submit spending plans that disregard Congressional direction.
House: The Committee is concerned that despite record investments in NASA, significant slips in both human and robotic missions are occurring. These slips are intolerable and must not continue. The Committee expects NASA and its industry and academic partners to redouble efforts to enhance oversight and commitment to success in order to ensure that programs come in on time and within budget.
GAO assessments of large-scale projects.—NASA shall continue to cooperate fully and provide timely information to the GAO so that it may fulfill its congressional mandate to report on the status of large-scale projects at NASA. Such information includes, but is not limited to, copies of preliminary cost estimates; access to online agency applications, databases, and web portals; and access to contractor and agency personnel. These assessments shall include any technology demonstration activities or communications and tracking services and related infrastructure refreshment activities with life cycle costs that exceed $250,000,000.
House: Long-term planning.—The request includes significant new funding to support NASA’s proposed Moon program. However, notional outyear budgets to implement this new initiative and the wide range of other ongoing and anticipated future decadal missions are unrealistic. The Committee is supportive of efforts focused on the Moon as well as current robotic missions to Europa and Mars; moving forward with a refocused WFIRST; and building a hypersonic research aircraft. These and many other NASA missions and programs inspire the nation and spur the next generation of scientists and explorers. The Committee directs NASA to submit realistic outyear budgets that show the level of investment required in future years to accomplish the variety of NASA missions and refrain from submitting budgets that are not executable in a timely fashion, as they serve only to hinder effective long-term planning which in turn results in higher overall program costs.
Direction of Congress
Senate: The Federal funding priorities for NASA set forth in this bill and report should not be interpreted as suggestions from the Committee. Rather they should be interpreted like any other statutory requirement levied upon NASA. The Committee objects to NASA's efforts in recent fiscal years to redirect funding away from priorities clearly set by the Congress in law. NASA's continued use of section 505 of this bill in this manner will result in limited funding flexibility in the future.
House: The Committee reminds NASA that any deviations from the amounts included in the table below are subject to section 505 requirements of this Act. When executing its budget for fiscal year 2019, NASA shall incorporate the funding levels established in both the table and the narrative direction. NASA is reminded that comity has existed between the Congress and the Executive Branch with respect to abiding by language included in this report and in the accompanying bill. The Committee expects NASA to respect this long-standing practice.
Information technology and cybersecurity
Senate: The Committee commends the Science Mission Directorate's [SMD] efforts to respond to data challenges by implementing innovative cloud storage agreements, investing in data and information systems, and developing supercomputing capabilities. By procuring information technology [IT] services through a utility-based model and paying only for services consumed, SMD's cloud computing engagements have delivered rapid and measurable capability gains, along with significant cost savings. The Committee directs NASA to report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 90 days after the enactment of this act on the status of expanding the adoption of cloud computing within the Mission Directorate, including the use of commercial cloud computing services, use cases where cloud computing has enhanced services, current plans for the expansion of cloud computing, security impacts, any factors delaying or inhibiting the expansion of cloud computing usage, and any cost savings achieved in the previous 3 fiscal years by the utilization of commercial cloud computing services.
Information Technology.—The Committee is extremely concerned with reports from the Inspector General [IG] and GAO on the state of NASA's Information Technology [IT] security. NASA needs to have outward facing systems that provide information and scientific data to users. These systems also must have protections in place for sensitive data and internal operations. NASA requires an appropriate workforce to ensure the agency's IT systems are secure. Both the IG and GAO highlight deficiencies within the Office of the Chief Information Officer. NASA is directed to provide the Committee with its plans to implement the recent recommendations of the IG and GAO on IT security no later than 30 days after enactment.
Cybersecurity.-The Committee's recommendation includes the full request for Agency Information Technology Services to support shifting NASA's IT model to one that enhances cybersecurity with strong governance and strong information security practices.
Senate: Earth Science.-Within the amount for Earth Science, the Committee recommendation includes … $161,000,000 for the Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud ocean Ecosystem [PACE] mission to maintain a 2022 launch date; $18,000,000 for CLARREO Pathfinder to continue progress on a Tier-1 decadal survey recommendation; $5,100,000 for OCO-3; $10,000,000 for the Carbon Monitoring System; and $1,700,000 for NASA instruments on the Deep Space Climate Observatory. Within 30 days of the enactment of this act, NASA shall report on the 5-year budget profile needed for PACE and CLARREO Pathfinder to achieve planned launch dates and continue originally planned operations.
NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar
Senate: The recommendation fully supports Earth Venture and NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar at no less than the request level.
House: Within amounts provided is $131,900,000, as requested, for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission.
Earth science decadal survey
Senate: Earth Science Decadal.—The Committee supports the release and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences' Earth Science and Applications from Space Decadal Survey report and directs NASA to implement its findings to the extent practicable. As articulated by the report, NASA should plan to competitively select future missions that address high priority target observables in the designated and explorer categories. The Committee believes an increase in competed, Principal Investigator-led missions will encourage responsible cost and schedule constraints, develop novel remote sensing technologies, and leverage the talents and expertise of scientists at universities and research institutions.
House: Earth Science Decadal.—The Committee supports the release and recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences Earth Science and Applications from Space Decadal Survey report and directs NASA to implement its findings to the extent practicable. As articulated by the report, NASA should seek when appropriate to competitively select future missions that address Designated and Earth System Explorer target observables. The Committee believes an increase in competition will further encourage responsible cost and schedule constraints, develop novel remote sensing technologies, and leverage the talents and expertise of scientists at universities and research institutions.
Senate: Sustainable Land Imaging and Competition.—In the interest of maximizing capability and cost-effectiveness, the Committee directs NASA to provide a report on the details of acquisition plans for Sustainable Land Imaging [SLI] beyond Landsat-9, that accommodate a full and open competition for the acquisition of instruments for the SLI satellite program, within 120 days after passage of this legislation.
House: Land imaging requirements.—NASA is encouraged to examine its portfolio and seek reimbursement, where appropriate, from Federal partner agencies on future land imaging requirements and examine how commercial partners may support NASA’s future land imaging requirements.
Space geodesy and geodynamics
House: Space geodesy and geodynamics.—The recommendation includes up to $5,000,000 within NASA’s Crustal Dynamics Data Information System to collaborate with academic partners to integrate multi-global navigation satellite system observations and make such data available to researchers. NASA is encouraged to partner, as appropriate, with NOAA on these matters
Senate: The Committee is also supportive of efforts for the development of aircraft instrumentation and arrays that can conduct remote sensing for scientific and operational research, and directs the agency to continue partnering with non-Federal researchers to test new technologies for analyzing snow, ice and soil moisture.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.—The Committee strongly supports NASA's efforts to develop and refine Unmanned Aerial Vehicle [UAV] platforms and encourages NASA to improve collaboration and cooperation with other science agencies of the Federal Government to share and expand limited UAV availability, including working with NOAA, to allow expanded utilization and supplement data collection in support of hurricane forecast modeling.
Senate: The recommendation also includes the request level for New Frontiers, Radioisotope Power Systems, and the Europa Clipper.
House: Planetary Science.—The recommendation includes $2,758,500,000 for Planetary Science. One of the primary recommendations of the National Academies’ 2012 Decadal Survey for Planetary Science was for NASA to achieve a balanced program through a mix of Discovery, New Frontiers, and flagship missions, and an appropriate balance among the many potential targets in the Solar System. The Committee continues to urge NASA, in subsequent budgets, to ensure that it requests sufficient funds to support such a balanced, steady cadence of missions. Further, the Committee expects NASA to request sufficient funds for Research and Analysis to ensure that science data collected by NASA can be fully exploited by scientists and researchers.
Discovery.—The recommendation includes $381,200,000, as requested, for the Discovery program. This program supports innovative, relatively low-cost, competitively selected Planetary Science missions. Funding provided supports the Lucy and Psyche missions, as requested. NASA shall keep the Committee informed of these programs. Given continued robust funding provided by the Committee for the Discovery program, NASA shall make every effort to follow the cadence recommended in the Decadal Survey.
New Frontiers.—The recommendation includes $130,200,000 for New Frontiers, as requested. New Frontiers missions explore the Solar System with frequent, medium-class spacecraft missions. The program includes three missions in operations: New Horizons, Juno, and OSIRIS–Rex. Given continued robust funding provided by the Committee for New Frontiers, NASA shall make every effort to follow the cadence recommended in the Decadal Survey.
Senate: The recommendation also includes $218,000,000, as requested, for Lunar Discovery and Exploration, including $18,000,000 to continue the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Lunar Discovery and Exploration program will provide science payloads and instruments for Lunar Lander missions, like those developed in partnership with NASA's Lunar CATALYST program. These small robotic missions, starting in 2020, intend to provide NASA with access to the lunar surface for the first time in nearly 50 years and allow for affordable commercial procurement of a variety of science and exploration payloads to prepare for future science and crewed Exploration Missions. This program supports a regular cadence of at least one robotic mission to the lunar surface per year using U.S.-built Lunar Landers.
House: Moon exploration.—The recommendation fully funds the Moon exploration initiatives requested throughout NASA but includes bill language limiting obligation of these funds until a multi-year plan, with specific goals and funding requirements by fiscal year, is submitted to the Committee. The Committee believes that without firm goals and specific years by which to achieve those goals, programs could drift and languish. The Committee notes how clear mission goals and deadlines can galvanize an agency and a nation behind that mission. The Committee supports additional lunar exploration and partnerships with industry and academia that will ensue as a result of these new missions and believes that efforts focused on the Moon will serve as risk reduction activities toward human exploration of Mars. The Committee believes that human and robotic exploration of Mars and other destinations in our Solar System and beyond must be the goals of NASA—that striving to go farther into space pushes NASA and its academic and industry partners to be bold and aggressive. While the Committee is supportive of renewed focus on the Moon, these programs must not exhaust funding for other science priorities recommended by the National Academies Decadal Survey process.
Lunar Discovery and Exploration.—The Committee supports the requested level of $218,000,000 for the Lunar Discovery and Exploration program, including $18,000,000 for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and $200,000,000 for the new Lunar Future initiative. The Committee directs that the new Lunar Future initiative follow the lunar science priorities established by decadal surveys and the National Research Council’s Scientific Context for the Exploration of the Moon and collect data to address the strategic knowledge gaps important for human exploration of the Moon. The Committee anticipates additional reports from the Academies regarding NASA’s plans for lunar science and exploration. The funds provided for moon exploration are intended to support a mix of commercial lunar payload services; science instrument development; small satellite development; and long-duration lunar rover development. These funds will support science payloads and instruments for Lunar lander missions such as those developed in partnership with the private sector as part of NASA’s Lunar CATALYST program. These robotic missions will provide NASA with access to the lunar surface and allow for an affordable procurement of a variety of science and exploration payloads to prepare for future science and crewed Exploration Missions.
Public-private partnerships.—The Committee notes that Lunar Future funding is intended to support, in part, public-private partnerships to send exploration and science payloads to the Moon and will serve as an architecture foundation for both lunar surface and lunar orbit operations. The Committee understands that the commercial landers supported by this program will provide the first opportunity since the Apollo 17 mission in 1972 to directly investigate the surface of the Moon. As part of this initiative and in concert with expertise within the Exploration Research and Technology account, NASA shall undertake risk reduction activities in support of large lunar lander technology maturation. Development of these landers is essential for human exploration of the Moon and beyond. The Committee notes that there is a robust private space industry with companies engaging in development of technologies that support NASA in its human and robotic exploration missions. The Committee expects NASA to engage in these public-private partnerships with U.S. commercial space companies to initiate the most expeditious possible development of a lunar lander for both the Moon and extensible applications to Mars missions. This includes development of hardware, propulsion, communications, and software necessary for a lunar landing vehicle with the ability to deliver 1,000 to 10,000 pounds of payload to the lunar surface. To the greatest extent practicable, NASA shall offer existing capabilities and assets at NASA Centers with lander expertise to support these partnerships. As part of the report directed in the administrative provisions of this bill, NASA shall provide an outline of missions and their intended launch cadence. NASA is encouraged to ensure that industry partners under the Lunar Future program exhibit in-kind or other cost share investments so the program can meet its intended goals on time and within budget.
Senate: The Committee acknowledges that NASA will use resources available in fiscal year 2018 to address the Mars 2020 heat shield testing mishap and, therefore, provides the request level for Mars 2020. The Committee reiterates its previous direction that if the Mars helicopter demonstration would delay the overall Mars 2020 mission, it should not be included in the Mars 2020 program. Funding for Mars Exploration includes $50,000,000 for studies and technology development for a 2026 Mars sample return mission.
House: Mars Exploration.—The Committee remains supportive of NASA’s ongoing Mars missions that continue to gather data about our nearest neighbor, which may have once supported microbial life. These missions and the Mars 2020 mission will provide NASA with valuable data about future landing sites for the Mars 2020 rover and eventually American astronauts. The recommendation includes $650,000,000 to support a Mars 2020 mission that meets scientific objectives for the most recent Planetary Science decadal survey, including the Mars sample return mission. Funding for the Mars helicopter technology demonstration is included within the Planetary Technology program described below. NASA shall provide quarterly briefings on all aspects of the Mars program. Finally, NASA shall provide a report within 180 days regarding the status and reliability of Mars data relay capability and how any potential future architecture upgrades are being incorporated into the overall Mars 2020 and sample return missions.
The recommendation includes $210,200,000 for Technology. Within these amounts … no less than $10,000,000 is for the Mars helicopter technology demonstration mission that will be flown on the Mars 2020 mission.
Senate: The recommendation also includes the request level for ... the Europa Clipper.
For Europa Clipper, a portion of the fiscal year 2019 funding may be derived from the project's substantial prior year balances.
House: The recommendation includes $760,900,000 for Outer Planets and Ocean Worlds, of which $545,000,000 is for the Jupiter Europa Clipper mission and $195,000,000 is for the Europa Lander mission to fulfill the requirements of recent Planetary Science decadal surveys. To support progress on these programs, NASA shall ensure that future funding requests are consistent with achieving a Europa Clipper launch no later than 2022 and a Europa Lander launch no later than 2024. The Committee appreciates that NASA has published a Research Announcement for Draft Instruments Concepts for Europa Exploration. NASA shall keep the Committee informed of the status of the Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for the Lander to ensure progress toward a 2024 launch. The Committee expects that this AO shall be published during fiscal year 2019. While the Committee remains very supportive of the Europa mission, the Committee expects this program to meet development milestones on time and within budget.
Future Europa funding requirements.—The Committee includes specific bill language regarding the Europa missions, directing that NASA launch the Europa Clipper mission in 2022 and the Europa Lander mission in 2024. Further, the Committee includes language directing NASA to include five year budget profiles necessary to achieve these goals. The Committee clarifies that this information shall include separate amounts for the yearly funding requirements for the Clipper mission to ensure it launches in 2022 and a separate funding amount required for the Lander mission to launch in 2024. These amounts shall also include yearly vehicle launch costs for each mission. As noted elsewhere in this report, NASA shall request budgets sufficient to ensure that the Europa missions launch according to the years established by law.
The recommendation includes $210,200,000 for Technology. Within these amounts, no less than $35,000,000 is for icy satellites surface technology and test-bed activities…
House: Juno.—The recommendation includes no less than $25,000,000, as requested, for Juno, a mission to Jupiter launched in 2011 to help NASA understand the formation of planets and the origins of the Solar System. The Committee is aware that the original Juno flight plan has been modified and that additional operational funds may be required in future years.
House: The recommendation also includes no less than $81,800,000, as requested, for NASA to continue its collaboration with the Department of Energy to produce plutonium-238 domestically for use as a source of energy in deep space missions.
NASA-NOAA astrobiology collaboration
House: Finally, the recommendation includes $3,000,000 for NASA to conduct a joint effort with NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and its exploration research vessels and existing tele-presence capabilities as well as new mobile systems, through the SUBSEA program, to examine potential parallels between possible systems that might support life in outer space to ones known to exist on Earth.
Near-Earth objects and planetary defense
Senate: The Committee recommendation includes the request level of $60,000,000 for Near Earth Object Observations, and $97,000,000 for Planetary Defense/Double Asteroid Redirection Test [DART].
DART.—The Committee directs NASA to continue the development of the DART technology demonstration mission, with a target launch not later than June 2021. The Committee understands that ground based telescopes and radars will be used to provide the needed measurements to assess the degree of deflection resulting from the DART impactor and that this telescope support is already baselined in the NASA mission. The Committee directs NASA to develop a plan for funding the Planetary Defense Office for DART and subsequent activities which will support successive space-based survey missions and technology demonstrations that will rapidly advance the Nation's planetary defense capabilities.
House: Planetary Defense.—The recommendation includes $160,000,000 for Planetary Defense activities. NASA shall maintain no less than current funding levels for its use of NSF’s ground-based telescopes to fulfill its planetary protection mission and determine if additional funds are required. The recommendation includes not less than the request for NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. The Committee directs NASA to continue the development of the DART technology demonstration mission toward a June 2021 launch. NASA shall keep the Committee informed of these activities. NASA is urged to conduct research into directed energy as a means of asteroid deflection.
Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam).—The Committee remains supportive of the NEOCam mission, which follows a 2010 National Academy of Sciences report regarding the use of space-based infrared survey telescopes to discover asteroids that pose a hazard to Earth. The recommendation includes an increase of $10,000,000 above current levels for NEOCam; the Committee understands that NASA is working with its partners to develop a more cost-effective mission focused on NEO search requirements. The Committee anticipates receiving the report requested in the fiscal year 2018 Appropriations Act regarding NEOCam.
Near-Earth Object Survey Act.—The Committee appreciates that an asteroid strike is a low-probability event, but the consequences of an impact could be enormous, or even catastrophic. The target date for completion of the George E. Brown, Jr. Near-Earth Object Survey Act quickly approaches. NASA’s activities towards meeting these requirements, while impressive, could be further enhanced by an in-space telescope that can detect objects approaching our planet from the direction of the Sun. While such a telescope might provide slightly less scientific data than other proposed projects, the Committee believes the trade-off for the defense of the planet is worthwhile.
Use of Green Bank Observatory
Senate: Green Bank Observatory.—The Committee recognizes the significant investment NSF has made to develop the world-class scientific facility at the Green Bank Telescope Observatory [GBO] and the benefit NASA has gained through its use of the GBO facility. NASA is encouraged to continue its use of GBO to support its Planetary Science Research program, including orbital debris monitoring and other activities, and to coordinate with NSF and other government agencies to develop and support multi-agency manage- ment plans for GBO, including research, facilities, and maintenance funding. NASA shall include in its fiscal year 2020 budget request any planned support for the subsequent 5 fiscal years.
House: Planetary protection.—The Committee is aware that planetary protection requirements for each NASA mission and target body are determined based on scientific advice from the Space Studies Board (SSB), National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, and on NASA policy, which is guided by international technical standards established by the international Committee on Space Research. In general, the Committee understands that if the target body has the potential to provide clues about life or prebiotic chemical evolution, a spacecraft will be required to meet a high standard of biological and chemical cleanliness and/or some operating restrictions will be imposed. The Committee is aware that the SSB issued an interim report on these matters and looks forward to the publication of the final report. NASA and its academic and industry partners must take all necessary precautions with respect to ensuring planetary protection.
House: Astrophysics.—The recommendation includes $1,029,000,000 for Astrophysics. The recommendation includes $83,400,000, as requested, for Astrophysics Research and Analysis. The Committee recognizes that exciting scientific discoveries often come from data evaluated after a mission’s initial surveys are complete. This funding enables maximum scientific value to be derived from these missions and leverages existing data sets that inspire new discoveries.
Astrophysics observatories.—The Committee commends NASA for providing the science community with observations of astrophysical objects conducted simultaneously over a broad range of wavelengths. The Committee looks forward to receiving the report directed in the fiscal year 2018 appropriations Act that summarizes NASA’s plans for maintaining U.S. leadership in obtaining astrophysical observations in the x-ray and gamma-ray wavelengths following the completion of the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope missions.
James Webb Space Telescope
Senate: The Committee recommendation includes ... no less than $15,000,000 for search for life technology development to leverage and scale technologies developed for the James Webb Space Telescope...
James Webb Space Telescope.—The Committee maintains its strong support for the completion of the James Webb Space Telescope [JWST], and provides $304,600,000, the same as the budget request. The bill maintains an overall development cost ceiling for JWST at $8,000,000,000, and the Committee intends to hold NASA and its contractors to that commitment. At this time, NASA has not submitted a request to increase the cap, despite numerous cost and schedule challenges. The Committee is disappointed with the execution and management of this project, especially given the attention paid to it by NASA and contractor leadership. The Committee expects to be briefed expeditiously when the ongoing independent assessment is complete and expects to be kept fully informed on issues relating to program and risk management, achievement of cost and schedule goals, and the program's technical status. The Committee appreciates GAO's continuing work to monitor JWST progress, costs, and schedule.
House: James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).—The recommendation includes $304,600,000 for JWST, which is the same as the request and $229,100,000 below fiscal year 2018. The Committee notes that NASA notified the Committee about an anticipated schedule breach and potential cost breach for the JWST program. Given continued problems with JWST, the Committee retains a separate line item for this program to ensure visibility. The Committee is very concerned about the issues that are emerging at this late stage of JWST development and expects NASA to report to the Committee on a regular basis regarding efforts to ensure that this launch does not slip further. The Committee expects NASA to increase its level of oversight and expects private sector partners to be diligent in ensuring that all proper procedures are followed. The Committee reminds NASA that this program was rebaselined in 2011 and provided with a robust $8,000,000,000 development cost cap that acknowledged how ambitious and difficult JWST is as a mission. These slips in the launch schedule are an enormous disappointment to the Committee. The Committee understands that NASA has commissioned an independent review of JWST and expects to receive the results of this review as soon as possible.
Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope
Senate: The Committee recommendation includes ... $352,000,000 for the Wide-Field InfraRed Survey Telescope [WFIRST].
WFIRST.—The Committee rejects the proposal to cancel this mission which was the highest priority of the most recent Astrophysics decadal survey to settle fundamental questions about the nature of dark energy and has provided $352,000,000 for WFIRST to be developed on a timeline that allows a 2025 launch date. The Committee is concerned about the growing cost of the prime mission and expects NASA to use a firm $3,200,000,000 mission cost cap in its future planning of the mission. To reduce mission costs and ensure that overlap with the James Webb Space Telescope is maximized, NASA should implement the most efficient development program for the telescope and its instruments.
House: Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST).—The recommendation includes $150,000,000 for WFIRST, which was included as the first priority in the 2010 Astrophysics Decadal Survey. The Committee is concerned about the growing cost of the prime mission as noted by a recent independent examination. To reduce mission costs and ensure that overlap with James Webb Space Telescope is maximized, NASA should implement the most efficient development program for the telescope and its instruments. Further, to enhance the cost effectiveness of science operations, NASA shall leverage more extensively the experience acquired on Hubble, Spitzer, and Wise. The recommended amount shall include continued development of the chronograph as a technology demonstration mission. Further, within amounts provided for WFIRST, $20,000,000 is for continued development of the Starshade technology demonstration effort. The Committee understands that WFIRST is already ‘‘Starshade-ready’’ within the $3,200,000,000 cost cap. The Starshade, in tandem with WFIRST, will enable NASA to identify the nearest Earth-like planet around the nearest star, and thereby identify a target or multiple targets for the interstellar mission NASA has been developing.
Hubble Space Telescope
Senate: The Committee recommendation includes no less than $98,300,000 for the Hubble Space Telescope...
The Committee has again rejected the proposal to cut Hubble operations given costs that the program has absorbed to continue three fellowship programs, address hardware degradation through software changes, and enhance the long-term value of Hubble's data archive.
Senate: Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy [SOFIA].—NASA regularly reviews its missions, as part of the senior review process, to measure mission performance based on scientific merit, national needs, the technical status of the mission, and budget efficiency to help resources prioritize and ensure they are meeting their science goals. NASA is encouraged to review SOFIA at the appropriate time to determine if this mission should have its operational phase extended.
House: Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA).—The recommendation includes $85,200,000 for SOFIA. SOFIA was first recommended in the 1991 Decadal Survey, The Decade of Discovery in Astronomy and Astrophysics. The New Worlds, New Horizons 2010 Decadal Survey noted that with SOFIA, ‘‘we have the opportunity to study fundamentals of chemistry under conditions we cannot create here on Earth.’’ Following that, the New Worlds, New Horizons: A Midterm Assessment noted that, ‘‘. . . (SOFIA) reached full operational capacity in February 2014 and provides unique capabilities for mid-to-far infrared spectroscopy.’’ Pursuant to 51 U.S.C. 30504, NASA conducts ‘‘triennial reviews’’ of ‘‘missions that exceed their planned missions’ lifetime.’’ The Committee is concerned with NASA’s proposed inclusion of SOFIA in the 2019 Senior Review, given it began its prime mission in 2014 and has 15 years of prime mission lifetime remaining. Accordingly, the Committee directs NASA to only undertake a Senior Review of SOFIA at the time SOFIA completes its planned mission lifetime. For the purposes of this section, announcing, scheduling, or undertaking a Senior Review is deemed preparation for shutdown.
2020 astrophysics decadal survey
Senate: Decadal Survey.—The Committee, NASA, and NSF, among others, rely on decadal surveys to prioritize scientific investments in large, medium, and small projects. The Committee directs NASA to support the National Academies in keeping the next Astrophysics decadal survey on schedule, rather than delaying the survey, as the astronomy community and other Federal agencies are relying on its results.
Search for extraterrestrial intelligence
House: Technosignatures.—The recommendation includes $10,000,000 for NASA to partner with the private sector and philanthropic organizations, to the maximum extent practicable, to search for technosignatures, such as radio transmissions, in order to meet the NASA objective to search for life’s origin, evolution, distribution, and future in the universe.
Senate: The recommendation provides $720,000,000 for Heliophysics, including $100,000,000 for Solar Terrestrial Probes, an increase of $9,000,000 above the request to support continued mission formulation and development of Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe [IMAP] , implement accompanying Missions of Opportunity [MOs], and maintain operations for ongoing missions.
Heliophysics Explorer.—The Committee is encouraged by NASA's commitment to implement a 2-year cadence of alternating Small Explorer [SMEX] and Mid-sized Explorer [MIDEX] missions, and enable a regular selection of MOs to allow heliophysics researchers to rapidly respond to and participate in missions both inside and outside of NASA. The recommendation provides the request level of $109,200,000 for Heliophysics Explorers.
House: Heliophysics.—The recommendation includes $688,500,000 for Heliophysics. This amount includes $26,000,000 to continue science operations and data archiving for the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission.
Senate: Heliophysics.—The Committee recognizes that a greater understanding of our Sun and the accompanying technologies developed for that purpose will help to mitigate the hazards that solar activity poses to ground- and space-based platforms that strengthen our national security, economic competitiveness, and scientific prowess.
Space Weather Research.—In response to the Space Weather Action Plan and the recommendations of the Decadal Survey, the Committee recommendation provides no less than $15,000,000 for the space weather research program to support innovation in solar observational capabilities and continue development of a space weather research program that advances research-to-operations, operations-to-research, and computational aspects of space weather mitigation. NASA should coordinate with NOAA and the Department of Defense to ensure that NASA is focused on research and technology that enables other agencies to dramatically improve their operational space weather assets and the forecasts they generate using data from those assets, including current and future ground-based telescopes and instruments that are expected to come on line, such as the Daniel K. Inouye Solar Telescope.
Senate: Diversify, Realize, Integrate, Venture, Educate [DRIVE] Initiative.—The Committee supports implementation of the DRIVE initiative, a top priority of the National Research Council Decadal Survey, which would increase the competitive Heliophysics research program from 10 percent to 15 percent of the budget request to enable the development of new technologies and establish competitively- awarded Heliophysics Science Centers. The Committee recognizes the increasingly multidisciplinary nature of Heliophysics and seeks to provide researchers with the necessary tools to enable continued scientific progress in this field.
Science Mission Directorate activities
Senate: SMD Education.—The Committee provides no less than $45,000,000 for education. The Committee supports the recommendation that the Astrophysics program administer this SMDwide education funding. The Committee encourages SMD-funded investigators to be directly involved in outreach and education efforts. NASA should continue to prioritize funding for on-going education efforts linked directly to its science missions.
House: Education and Public Outreach (EPO).—The recommendation includes $44,000,000 for Science Mission Directorate (SMD)-wide EPO activities. NASA shall, in the fiscal year 2019 spending plan, allocate these funds proportionally among the SMD divisions, resulting in a dedicated budget line for each division’s EPO activities.
Office of Education
Senate: The Committee is supportive of NASA's STEM education efforts that provide hands-on learning experiences for middle, high school, and college students, including space launch activities, and therefore rejects the proposed cancellation of education programs. These types of programs allow students to experience the full range of STEM-related skills involved in designing, testing, and launching vehicles and designing payloads to deepen their interest in science and engineering fields.
The Committee does not agree with the proposed cancellation of the activities within Education and has provided funding for the programs formerly within Education under a new Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] Opportunities account for the upcoming fiscal year. The Committee provides $110,000,000 for STEM Opportunities, which is $10,000,000 above the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $110,000,000 above the budget request. As part of this activity, NASA is directed to continue progress toward the Committee and NASA's shared goal of capping administrative costs at no more than five percent. This account funds STEM education activities to educate and inspire our next generation of explorers and innovators.
The Committee is not averse to considering funding these activities either within the STEM Opportunities directorate or other alternative locations, but believes that they should continue. NASA has an enormous reach in inspiring the future scientists, engineers, and other technical activities that keep the Nation at the forefront of research and exploration and should review its programs to ensure they are appropriately funded.
The Committee directs NASA to use fiscal year 2019 to review the programs within the STEM Opportunities Mission Directorate, along with its other education-related activities, in order to set NASA's STEM activities on a path forward to take advantage of the positive impact NASA's programs and missions have on the public. NASA shall provide the Committee a report on the results of this comprehensive review, including options for sustained and improved educational impact at all levels across the country, 90 days from enactment of this act.
The funds within STEM Opportunities are provided to ensure continuity in the ongoing programs as NASA evaluates its role in STEM education and development of students in science and engineering fields.
House: The Committee recommends $90,000,000 for Education, which is $10,000,000 below fiscal year 2018 and $90,000,000 above the request. The Committee expects NASA to continue implementing the programs below and to ensure that overhead costs to support these programs do not exceed five percent. National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program.—The recommendation includes $40,000,000 for the Space Grant program. This amount shall be allocated to State consortia for competitively awarded grants in support of local, regional, and national STEM needs.
Senate: Space Grant.—The Committee provides $44,000,000 for Space Grant and directs NASA to support a multi-year extension of the current Space Grant program, and to allocate the entire funding amount for consortia-led institutions in all 52 participating juris- dictions according to the percentage allocation provided to States in the current 5-year grant award.
Senate: Competitive Program.—The Committee provides $10,000,000 for the Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums, and NASA Visitors Centers within the STEM Education and Accountability Projects. This competitive grant program creates interactive exhibits, professional development activities, and community-based programs to engage students, teachers, and the public in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
House: Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).—The recommendation includes $18,000,000 for EPSCoR.
Minority University Research and Education project
House: Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).— The recommendation includes $32,000,000 for MUREP.
Senate: Nuclear Propulsion.—NASA is continuing its work to develop the foundational technologies and advance low-enriched uranium nuclear thermal propulsion systems that can provide significantly faster trip times for crewed missions than non-nuclear options. Not less than $75,000,000 shall be expended to support the development and demonstration of a nuclear thermal propulsion system. Within 180 days of the enactment of this act, NASA, in conjunction with other relevant Federal departments and agencies shall submit a multi-year plan that enables a demonstration no later than 2024 and describes future missions and propulsion and power systems enabled by this capability.
House: Nuclear thermal propulsion technology.—Within amounts provided, $150,000,000 is for continued development and demonstration of a nuclear thermal propulsion system. Within 180 days of the enactment of this Act, NASA shall submit a multi-year plan that enables a nuclear thermal propulsion demonstration by no later than 2024 and describes future missions and propulsion and power systems enabled by this capability. NASA shall take into consideration the use of nuclear thermal propulsion as it drafts the multiyear exploration roadmap directed in this bill. Further, of the funds provided for nuclear thermal propulsion, not less than $10,000,000 is for development of digital twin technology to support the cost effective development, manufacturing and operation of nuclear thermal propulsion technologies.
Solar electric propulsion
House: Solar electric propulsion.—The recommendation includes $52,000,000 to continue work on solar electric propulsion activities. According to NASA, high-powered solar electric propulsion can efficiently propel more ambitious robotic science and human exploration missions beyond the Earth and into deep space. Furthermore, solar electric propulsion will enable more efficient orbit transfer of spacecraft and accommodate the increasing power demands for government and commercial satellites.
International Space Station
Senate: Commercial Low-Earth Orbit Development [LEO].—The Committee supports maintaining the International Space Station [ISS] with direct Federal funding beyond 2025 until a viable alternative exists to achieve NASA's objectives in LEO. The Committee supports public-private partnerships to advance commercial capabilities in LEO, particularly those involving in-kind contributions by NASA, such as making a docking node on the ISS available for partnership opportunities. The agreement provides $40,000,000 for port implementation analysis and power augmentation studies necessary to enable potential future commercial activities at the ISS.
ISS Research.—Increased crew time aboard the ISS presents more research opportunities. The Committee directs NASA to promote new grant opportunities that will support and further biological and physical sciences research within a microgravity environment, including continued study of and quantifying potential exposure to cosmic rays through initiatives such as the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer. In making grant opportunities available, the Committee urges the Administrator to abide by the priorities established by the National Academies' decadal survey titled "Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration: Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era."
House: International Space Station (ISS).—The Committee reiterates that the International Space Station shall remain operational as long as it remains safe and operable. The Committee is supportive of the Administration’s efforts to find partners to pay for the future costs of the ISS. NASA’s March 2018 International Space Station Transition Report stated that, ‘‘From a structural integrity analysis standpoint, the ISS platform is expected to have significant structural life well beyond 2028 (based on the current assessment period). Many of the ISS modules, particularly the modules launched in the later years of ISS assembly, are likely to have structural life well into the 2030s . . .’’ As NASA embarks on an ambitious plan to once again send robotic and human exploration missions to the Moon, it is crucial that NASA and its private sector partners continue to have the ability to conduct experiments in a microgravity environment such as that provided by the ISS. The Committee continues to encourage NASA to implement cost savings measures to reduce NASA’s investment in the ISS operations budget while maximizing research opportunities. In particular, the Committee is concerned that NASA is not maximizing human research opportunities on the ISS that will contribute to advances for improved human health on Earth and during deep space exploration missions.
Commercial LEO Development.—The recommendation includes $150,000,000, as requested, for Commercial LEO Development. This funding will establish the foundation for future commercial options in LEO to meet NASA’s research and technology development requirements beyond the ISS. The Committee is supportive of enhancing collaboration with the private sector, including efforts to add additional modules to the ISS and support new technologies such as in-space manufacturing. As noted elsewhere, funding obligations for the Commercial LEO Development program are limited until NASA submits a multi-year, detailed plan for these activities.
Senate: Small Satellite Technical Challenges.—The Committee provides $2,000,000 above the budget request to further address the technical challenges associated with designing, fabricating, and testing capable small satellites and constellations of satellites.
House: Small satellites.—The recommendation includes $25,000,000 to enable NASA to work with its private sector and academic partners to address the technical challenges associated with designing, fabricating, and testing capable satellites and constellations of satellites that meet certain size, weight, and power requirements. Also included is up to $2,000,000 to address technical challenges associated with high speed crosslink and downlink communications for low Earth orbit small satellite constellations.
House: Orbital debris.—The Committee notes the successful launch in December 2017 of the Space Debris Sensor to the International Space Station. Consistent with this mission, NASA is encouraged to take steps to develop or acquire technologies that will enable the Administration to remove orbital debris and to provide a report on these matters within 180 days of enactment of this Act.
Study of impact craters on Earth
House: Impact craters.—Impact craters in the U.S. that are well preserved and accessible provide researchers and educators with the opportunity to expand our understanding of the Earth’s and the Solar System’s history and show students research in action as a part of their STEM education. NASA is encouraged to make funds available for external competitive funding to conduct further scientific investigation of well-preserved and easily accessible impact craters, and provide education and outreach on Earth’s erosion processes and the scientific method of research.
House: Interstellar roadmap.—The Committee appreciates that NASA has submitted the propulsion technology assessment to enable an interstellar mission to identify the nearest Earth-like planet that shows signs of extant life. The Committee notes that the challenges of interstellar travel are immense and will require monumental advancements in many technology areas. The roadmap proposed by NASA begins with a series of workshops to assess candidate technologies and establish specific technology development milestones. Within amounts provided, NASA shall initiate these workshops immediately and provide a report on their proceedings no later than 180 days following enactment of this Act. NASA must stay true to its heritage by being bold and pushing the limits of science, engineering, and technology. The Committee looks forward to working with NASA to ensure the roadmap is implemented. As noted elsewhere, NASA shall ensure that it requests sufficient funds in future budgets to develop and implement this mission.