NASA shifts funds to new priorities

As budgets tighten and priorities shift, NASA is cutting $1 billion from its pace operations budget, but spending more on other science and technology areas that will reshape the agency's mission, a new study shows.

“As NASA shifts priorities for human spaceflight from shuttle operations to human exploration capabilities and commercial spaceflight, the budget will be redirected to a range of technology development programs,” said Steve Bochinger, president of Euroconsult North America.

The firm and its partner Omnis Inc. have released a new study, NASA Spending Outlook: Trends to 2016, which analyzes NASA’s budget.

As space operations shrink, the science budget will be redistributed among NASA centers, Bochinger said.

Among the findings:
  • The Science Mission Directorate saw an 11 percent bump in 2011 and will have a $5 billion through 2016. Goddard Space Flight Center and Langley Research Center will benefit because of the work on Earth science projects.
  • The Exploration Systems Mission Directorate will hold steady at about $3.9 billion but funds will shift away from human exploration activities.
  • The new Space Technology Directorate will get $1 billion a year from 2012 to 2016. Langley, Glenn and Ames research centers will benefit because of their work on new technologies for exploration and robotic spaceflight.
  • NASA is restructuring the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to focus on fundamental aeronautics and development of technologies for the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

The study also predicts that NASA’s business practices will have to change with a shift from cost-plus contracting to more fixed-price contracting.

About the Author

Nick Wakeman is the editor-in-chief of Washington Technology. Follow him on Twitter: @nick_wakeman.

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Reader comments

Fri, Jun 10, 2011

Object away and I apologize for the tone, but the political slant that is engulfing NASA these days are pitting human spaceflight against R&D. Clearly R&D is going WAY up in funding, while the reason people even think of NASA (humans in space) are the one's having the major belt tightening. R&D is done all over the world and in just about every company out there. Why is NASA now going to expend such a large portion of its budget to do what other entities do (which is what truly made the US the powerhouse it still is)? The one thing unique NASA does that no other company (yet) does is send people into space. Why is that the portion being defunded? I fear greatly that as time passes with no expansion of human capability in space, congress will start to defund all the science that don't make the headlines. The science is indeed the golden egg and we all agree on that. Human spaceflight is the goose that lays the golden egg, in terms of attracting money. We are systematically killing the goose that lays the golden egg, IMHO.

Thu, Jun 9, 2011

I object to the tenor of the previous comment implying that money spent on research goes to 'fun little projects for the "scientsts"'. Of course the money needs to be watched and programs need to be peer-reviewed, but the reflexive attitude that we should yank back all funding for science shows lack of historic understanding of what made the US economy the powerhouse it still is, until such time that we deprive ourselves of the R&D investment that is necessary for growth.

Thu, Jun 9, 2011

Charlie Bolden said we must live within our means in these tough time, but the NASA budget is going to be the same for the next 5 years. This means human spaceflight will get poor, while the other parts of NASA listed above will get rich beyond their wildest dreams. Where's the belt tightening there? Instead of the $3.5B per year spent on Shuttle going back to the taxpayer, instead it will be spread around the Agency for a bunch of fun little projects for the "scientists". No ultimate goal other than to "think deep thoughts", at taxpayer expense.

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