Status Report

FY 2015 President’s Budget Request Summary For NASA

By SpaceRef Editor
March 11, 2014
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FY 2015 President’s Budget Request Summary For NASA

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The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 challenged our Nation to grow our technical and scientific abilities in air and space. In support of the goals set forward in the Act, NASA helped to recharge the U.S. economy, by creating highly-skilled high-paying jobs in science, engineering, project management, and a host of specialized fields. NASA investments in research and development (R&D) enabled the creation of high quality goods and services across the country. Since the 1970s, numerous economic reports and articles have demonstrated that NASA investments helped grow the U.S. economy. Perhaps most importantly, in addition to direct support in terms of jobs and procurements, NASA-funded R&D helped stimulate our long-term capacity for innovation and economic growth within the government, at universities, and at industrial companies. And the disciplines were many – including new and composite materials, computing and electronics, fuels, radio communications, safety, and even human health.

In the FY 2015 President’s Budget Request, NASA addresses the challenge of advancing U.S. leadership in space exploration, space and Earth science, and aeronautics in the current fiscal climate. In formulating this budget, projects and programs have been reviewed and their costs and benefits assessed to ensure the highest scientific return on the dollar. Funding profiles have been considered and streamlined. The potential contributions of partner agencies, nations, and industries were evaluated. In developing this budget, the Agency faced and made tough decisions to fully support its highest priority programs. Progress on attaining our highest priorities can continue in a productive, efficient, and safe manner only if other worthy, but less tightly aligned missions are deferred or suspended. This budget presents a balanced portfolio of NASA investments, but one focused on success for the long-term.

This budget advances the Nation’s space exploration, technology development, and scientific research plans and maintains the U.S. posture as a world leader through the development of a next-generation deep space transportation system. It fosters the development of a commercial space industry that will expand the research use of the ISS. The budget ensures we continue to learn about and protect life on our home planet, Earth. It invests in R&D, technology development, and a scientific infrastructure that enables exploration today, tomorrow, and generations from now. Moreover, the FY 2015 budget continues to create jobs, demand highly-skilled services, and stimulates the U.S. economy.

In FY 2015, NASA continues to plan and refine the requirements for its first-of-a-kind mission to encounter and redirect an asteroid and visit it with astronauts. In support of this cross-agency activity, scientists, mission managers, technologists, and operations specialists are working on a multi-segment mission that will advance our deep space exploration capabilities as a step toward future human missions to Mars, and will improve the ability of our Nation and others to protect the planet from asteroid impacts. In the first segment, fundamental research conducted within the Science Mission Directorate is accelerating knowledge growth about near-Earth asteroids and will enable scientists to select an asteroid target for this mission.

This supports an Asteroid Grand Challenge to develop new partnerships and collaborations to accelerate NASA’s existing planetary defense work, and the Asteroid Redirect Mission. The Asteroid Grand Challenge is to find all asteroid threats to human population and know what to do about them. Identified asteroids could also become candidate asteroids for the mission. The challenge is an effort to reach beyond traditional boundaries and encourage partnerships and collaboration with a variety of organizations to solve this global problem.

Within the second segment of the Asteroid Redirect Mission, NASA is planning a robotic mission to capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid into a stable orbit around the Moon. Today’s technology development in advanced solar electric propulsion, as managed by the Space Technology Mission Directorate, will provide the spacecraft with sufficient energy and thrust so it is able to capture a small, non-threatening asteroid and redirect it. Designers of the mission spacecraft will also incorporate anticipated technological advances in lightweight materials, communication, data storage and transfer, and space navigation. In the third segment of the mission, NASA will employ the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (Orion) to send human crews deep into space to examine and collect samples from the redirected asteroid by 2025. More information about the technical aspects of the missions can be found in the Science, Space Technology, and Exploration account sections of this document.

The FY 2015 budget request fully supports the plan for crewed exploration of deep space. NASA is committed to the development of the Orion and remains on schedule and budget for advanced testing in 2014, an uncrewed Space Launch System (SLS)/Orion test flight in FY 2018, and a first crewed flight by FY 2021-2022. The outyear budget also fully supports to evolve the SLS development of heavy-lift rocket with capability to bring an unprecedented 130 metric tons of payload to orbit.

In January 2014, the President’s Science Advisor announced plans to extend ISS operations to at least 2024. Doing so increases the Nation’s ability to conduct fundamental and applied research necessary to developing spacecraft and human life support systems for deep space exploration. The ISS extension is made possible in large part because of the success of our commercial space partners in developing low- cost and highly-reliable systems for delivering supplies and equipment to the ISS. The burgeoning U.S. commercial space marketplace is already providing mission support, which lessens American reliance on foreign services, and creates highly-skilled jobs across the Nation.

This budget request strongly supports ISS research. Scientists and engineers will develop and execute experiments and technology demonstrations in diverse disciplines including physics, biology, materials science, robotics, communications, and human physiology. Insights gained from these studies will be essential for planning missions to Mars and to other points deeper in space. The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS), the research management organization for the ISS National Laboratory, will continue to enable federal, academic, and commercial research activities. Exciting research will include potential medicines and interventions that will improve human health both in space and here on Earth.

This budget request continues to fund a strategic suite of missions about the Earth, sun, solar system, and deep space. Earth observations continue to allow unprecedented study of climate change and weather prediction. NASA investments in improved IT systems capable of managing “big data” will provide researchers with unparalleled access to data about the Earth. By fostering collective and collaborative research, the scientific insights gained from NASA missions will increase profoundly.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) remains on track for launch in 2018. Once operational, scientists will be able to look farther out into space than ever before, gaining new insights to the formation and evolution of stars and galaxies. A robust planetary science program includes data analysis of ongoing missions, and development of the next Mars rover. NASA will also begin scoping a mission to Europa, Jupiter’s icy moon which, data suggests, may have organic material on its surface.

NASA continues to minimize the barriers to human and robotic exploration of space by identifying and working solutions for both near and long-term needs. The Agency’s investments in Space Technology in FY 2015 include demonstrations of maturing technologies, and novel “game-changing” basic and applied R&D that may eventually save time and costs while increasing scientific return on investment. Focus areas in 2015 include solar electric propulsion, which is necessary for a deep space asteroid mission; cryogenic storage and transfer; laser communications; and human-robotic interfaces. NASA’s Space Technology program also supports Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. Through these competitive opportunities, NASA is able to draw on the innovation of small local engineering and technology companies. These programs are a “win-win” as NASA benefits from the creativity and flexibility of small teams, and the companies grow and may be able to “spin off” NASA-inspired technologies to new commercial markets.

The FY 2015 budget request for Aeronautics research reflects its focus on six strategic areas: safe, efficient growth in global operations; innovation in commercial supersonic aircraft; ultra-efficient commercial vehicles; transition to low-carbon propulsion; real-time, system-wide safety assurance; and assured autonomy for aviation transformation. Across its portfolio of aeronautics investments, NASA continues to develop and test solutions that strengthen the air travel and transportation industry while minimizing environmental impact.

NASA supports efforts to improve the quality and depth of teaching and education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The Office of Education will continue to coordinate with the Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Smithsonian Institution on STEM issues in order to maximize NASA’s unique resources that support the reorganization initiative. NASA will continue to provide opportunities for students and educators to engage in activities that tie directly to NASA’s science, technology, and engineering activities.

The FY 2015 budget makes efficient use of NASA’s assets, including its workforce, equipment, and one- of-a-kind facilities. The budget also includes reinvigorated efforts to protect these assets, particularly from cyber threats. NASA continues to evaluate its current and future needs for existing facilities and invests in preventative repairs that will reduce future costs of refurbishment or replacement. The Agency is also proactively seeking means to reduce its operating costs. NASA is reducing its energy footprint, working with other agencies to share and leverage facilities usage, and using reimbursable agreements to support external customers who seek NASA’s unique capabilities.

In its more than 50 years, NASA has advanced our technical knowledge and human abilities. Our engineers are now building spacecraft capable of carrying humans to another planet or a moving asteroid. What we now know about the stars would astound the earliest scientists who documented the seasonality of constellations, or those who later studied the heavens through simple lenses and prisms. In many respects, NASA has made science fiction a reality by investing in disciplines that may have seemed like fantasy in 1958 robotics, space habitats, analyzing the surface of Mars, and healing the sick through telemedicine. But in one important respect, NASA continues to do what it’s always done. It serves as a stimulus to U.S. creativity and innovation, our competitiveness on the global stage, and economic growth that benefits all Americans.


NASA’s Science account funds exploration of our planet, other planets and planetary bodies, our star system in its entirety, and funds observations out into our galaxy and beyond. Through the development of space observatories and probes that enable exploration and discovery, NASA will continue to inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and explorers. The FY 2015 budget request for Science is $4,972 million.

JWST, a successor to the Hubble telescope is on schedule for a 2018 launch. JWST will be 100 times more capable than Hubble, becoming the premier astronomical observatory of the next decade. The request also funds ongoing study of a possible WFIRST/AFTA mission, the next major observatory beyond JWST, for a potential start of formulation activities later this decade. Other astrophysics missions in formulation and development include the Astro-H Soft X-Ray Spectrometer, and the TESS and NICER Explorer missions selected in 2013.

NASA continues to learn more about Earth. The launch and operation of Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) will advance our understanding of Earth’s water and energy cycles and improve the forecasting of extreme events that cause natural disasters. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) mission will collect global measurements of atmospheric CO2 with the precision to characterize the distribution of CO2 and is essential to improving predictions and potential impacts on the climate. The request also fully funds Soil Moisture Active-Passive (SMAP); Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat-II); Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE-FO); and several other future Earth Science missions.

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission will go into orbit around Mars on Sept. 21, 2014. MAVEN will determine the role that escape of gas from the atmosphere to space has played in changing the climate throughout the planet’s history. InSight and Mars 2020 are future Mars lander missions, and the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will travel to a near-Earth asteroid in 2018 and be the first U.S. mission to carry samples from an asteroid back to Earth. The request funds continued study of a potential future mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

The request fully funds several major missions to advance our understanding of the Sun and its impact on the Earth, including Magnetospheric Multiscale, Solar Probe Plus, and Solar Orbiter Collaboration. The request also funds the ICON and GOLD Explorer missions selected in 2013.


NASA conducts aeronautics research to bring transformational advances in the safety, capacity, and efficiency of the air transportation system while minimizing negative impacts on the environment. The FY 2015 budget request for the Aeronautics account is $551.1 million.

The air transportation system of today is an integral part of the US and Global economies. It is the primary mechanism for connecting countries across the world, not only through mobility of populations, but also through mobility of goods and services. NASA Aeronautics guides its research efforts using a strategic vision that embraces the multiple roles of aviation and expands the understanding of those roles to the global stage, while working to address tomorrow’s challenges. NASA develops cutting-edge technologies and demonstrates their feasibility to enable revolutionary new vehicle performance, dramatically more efficient operations, and assured safety levels for the nation’s air transportation. These technologies will expand airspace capacity with more fuel-efficient flight planning, diminish delays on the ground and in the sky, reduce fuel consumption, reduce the overall environmental footprint of aviation, and continue to improve safety.

NASA recently developed a new and compelling strategic vision for the Aeronautics Research programs. To reach this vision, the Aeronautics research has been aligned to focus on newly defined strategic thrust areas. These areas were identified to be responsive to a growing demand for mobility, severe challenges to sustainability of energy and the environment, and technology advances in information, communications, and automation technologies.


Space Technology conducts rapid development and incorporation of transformative space technologies that enable NASA’s missions, of human exploration and space science and improve technological capabilities for NASA and the Nation. The FY 2015 budget request for Space Technology is $705.5 million.

NASA prepares for future technology needs by maturing new technologies and capabilities. Significant progress in technology areas such as high-power solar electric propulsion, life support and resource utilization, entry, descent, and landing, space robotic systems, optical communications and navigation, lightweight structures, and instruments for space observatories, are essential for future science and human exploration missions. They also will enable other government agencies and private industry to carry out more capable and affordable missions and help to open up the space frontier.

In FY 2013, Space Technology funded more than 400 research and development activities with U.S. academic institutions engaging the Nation’s brightest minds to solve some of the most difficult technological challenges. This year will bring completion of the Composite Cryogenic Propellant Tank project by scaling up the successful prototype (completed in FY 2013) to test and validate a full-scale 5.5- meter diameter tank, which will significantly reduce the structural mass of future launch vehicles and consequently dramatically increase their payload mass to orbit. In FY 2015, Space Technology will continue development of a high-powered solar electric propulsion system that will enable orbit transfer and accommodate increasing power demands for satellites, and power the robotic segment of the asteroid redirect mission. In addition, Space Technology will execute seven launches in 24 months including: deep space atomic clock for advanced navigation, green propellant and four small spacecraft demos of pioneering new technologies. Finally, this funding supports a high-altitude, supersonic demonstration of advanced parachutes and inflatable entry, descent and landing technologies that will offer at least three times improvement in landed mass at Mars over Curiosity, and offer a pathway to landed masses as high as 15 metric tons for human missions.

The programs within Space Technology develop and demonstrate near term and far reaching technological solutions as well as enhancements that increase capability and reduce technological risk, making space activities more affordable and reliable. Space Technology drives the cadence of new technology starts to be conducted by the NASA workforce, academia, small businesses, and the aerospace enterprise, to ensure a steady pipeline of innovation by engaging the Nation’s brightest minds. As efforts complete, appropriate technologies will be transferred and commercialized to benefit a wide range of users to ensure the full economic value and societal benefit of these innovations is realized. NASA contributes to the demands of larger national technology goals by investing in Space Technology.

SpaceRef staff editor.