NASA’s Budget Revealed: A quick look at the new ISS – rather, what’s left of it

By Keith Cowing
February 28, 2001
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The Bush Administration Released details of the FY 2002 budget today. The news for the International Space Station is not good.

According to Highlights of 2002 NASA Funding: A Blueprint for New Beginnings — A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities issued by the White House:

“Recent cost growth on the Space Station is estimated at approximately $1 billion for 2001 and 2002 and $4 billion for the next five years. To address this unprecedented cost growth and ensure that the program remains within the five-year budget plan, the President’s 2002 Budget will include important decisions regarding the funding and management of the program while preserving the highest priority goals: permanent human presence in space, world-class research in space, and accommodation of international partner elements.”

As a result of direction from the Bush Administration, NASA will delete the Hab Module, the Crew Rescue Vehicle (CRV), and the U.S. Propulsion module. This will mean that the Russians will remain in the critical path for both propulsion and crew rescue vehicle for years to come – an issue Congress has expressed concern for in the past due to Russia’s chronic money problems and inability to meet programmatic milestones.

The overall intent is to use remaining ISS funds to finish the core U.S. portion of the ISS as soon as possible so as to allow the modules being built by ESA and Japan to be added.

The impact of this redesign will be significant on science and utilization as well. While the Bush Administration has endorsed the NGO concept for ISS utilization, the capability of the ISS to do science is going to diminish. NASA MSFC has already cancelled work for the MSRR-2 and MSRR-3 (Materials Science Research Rack) ISS Payload Racks and is looking at ways of expanding MSRR-1 to make up for some of the lost capability ESA is also involved in the development of MSRR-1.  Options whereby the Centrifuge Accomodation Module (being built by Japan for the U.S.) and other payload facilities would be dropped from the ISS program are also under consideration.

Also, in an apparent reverse of what was done when the Space Station Freedom Program was transformed into the ISS program, the Bush Administration has directed that NASA “transfer space station program management reporting from the Johnson Space Center in Texas to NASA Headquarters until a new program management plan is developed and approved.”

Much more needs to be worked out before the final redesign of the International Space Station becomes clear. Reaction from the other countries participating in the ISS program has yet to be heard. Given that NASA only began to brief its partners on its decisions today, it may be a few days before such reaction is forthcoming.

Related Links

° SpaceRef Space Station User’s Guide

° 28 February 2001: Highlights of 2002 NASA Funding: A Blueprint for New Beginnings — A Responsible Budget for America’s Priorities, White House

° 27 February 2001: Letter from Reps Rohrabacher and Weldon to Dan Goldin Regarding JSC Center Director George Abbey’s Reassignment, House Science Committee

° 23 February 2001: Letter from (former) JSC Center Director George Abbey to Senior Staff: Actions Required to Address ISS Budget Challenges

° NASA Administrator Appoints Johnson Space Center Director to Senior Assistant Position, NASA PAO

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.