Jul 21 2010

Senate subcommittee OKs bill with $1.9 billion for NASA to develop heavy lift rocket

A bill including $1.9 billion for NASA and Marshall Space Flight Center to begin developing a heavy lift launch vehicle was approved today by the U.S. Senate's Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, according to ranking member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa.

The Obama Administration's Fiscal Year 2011 budget request terminated NASA's Constellation program, cancelling "the only realistic approach for the United States to return to low earth orbit and beyond," Shelby said in a statement. "The President's budget proposal surrendered our nation's leadership in space to the Russians, Chinese, and Indians and instead chose to set up an entitlement program for the so-called commercial space industry."

He said this bill reaffirms the nation's commitment to a robust human space exploration program by providing money for the heavy lift rocket "that will be designed, managed and integrated by the Marshall Space Flight Center" and, "when completed in 2016, will ensure that NASA begins to explore well beyond low earth orbit where we have been stuck for decades."

The bill will now go to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration. It also includes funding for drug courts, bulletproof vests, forensics programs, cybercrime programs and much more, including:

• Marshall Space Flight Center: Advanced Algorithm, Integration, and Maturation - $500,000; High Temperature Materials Research and Development - $500,000; Product Lifecycle Management - $500,000; NASA Space Nuclear Power Systems Research and Development - $500,000.

• University of Alabama in Huntsville Airborne Sensor for Disaster and Environmental Monitoring - $500,000. The Airborne Sensor will deliver critical information during periods of environmental stress or disaster, and aid in building a baseline of data for understanding the nature and frequency of these disasters - some which are only apparent by observing slow changes over time.