NASA’s Reorganization Puts the Future of Current Projects in Question

In the 2018 omnibus spending bill passed, NASA was able to earn a windfall that the agency now reviews while moving ahead with its space technology work’s reorganization. This puts some of its current projects’ future left in question. On March 23, President Trump formally signed the 2018 omnibus spending bill for the fiscal year.

President Trump finally signed the spending bill after a last-minute veto threat, which earned NASA a $20.736 billion funding. This amount is over $1 billion above the fund that it received before and about $1.6 billion more than its request. This includes funding for Earth science missions that were targeted for termination along with NASA’s education office that was scheduled for closure.

Officials of NASA all say that the 2018 budget was certainly good news for the agency. At least for the year 2018, many of the missions canceled because of great concerns are now restored. The $130 million fund for the satellite servicing mission Restore-L was also included in the bill. In the request, $45 million funding was sought for the program.

The administration was looking to turn the program from a standalone mission to an effort that is more into general technology development. The proposed cut for the program reflected a large cost as a full-fledged mission. One of the reasons that NASA has difficulty funding the program is because it is a standalone mission.

In addition to the increase in Restore-L’s funding, NASA also received $75 million for nuclear thermal propulsion technology (vs. $35 million requested). The agency’s Flight Opportunities Program also received a slight increase. Now that NASA received its funding, they will begin to create an operating plan for allocating of funds included in the bill but not assigned to specific programs.

Additionally, the agency is also considering some larger changes to its effort in space technology in their 2019 budget proposal. Their proposal calls for a reorganization of space technology to move into a new budget line for Exploration Research and Technology. The agency also plans to combine it with some of its standing research projects on exploration and human agency program.

The changes were due to two reasons. First, it was to assimilate similar programs so that possible duplications are eliminated. Another reason is to give focus on the agency’s technology work on projects related to exploration. The U.S. administration asked the agency to focus its investment in two areas – to enable humans to explore space and develop space techs.