White House asks NASA for $26 billion in 23, adds funds for second lunar lander – Spaceflight Now



The waning gibbous moon seen from the International Space Station on January 21. Credit: NASA

The White House’s fiscal year 2023 budget request for NASA is $26 billion, including $7.5 billion for the agency’s Artemis Moon program, a boost from the budget this year to help pay for the development of a second human-sized lander to ferry astronauts to the lunar surface.

NASA officials announced last week that they plan to fund development of a second lunar lander to accompany SpaceX’s Starship vehicle, which the agency selected last year for the Earth’s first lunar landing attempt. Artemis program.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the budget request is “a signal of support for our missions and a new era of exploration and discovery.”

The $26 billion headline figure in the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2023 budget request is nearly $2 billion more than what NASA receives in fiscal year 2022 in a bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden earlier in March, five months into the government’s fiscal year. .

“It’s an investment in the company, the companies, and the universities that all partner with NASA in all 50 states, and by the way, in the high-paying jobs they’ve created,” Nelson said.

Through the Artemis program, NASA aims to land astronauts on the moon no sooner than 2025. NASA plans to follow this mission with a series of larger and longer lunar expeditions, including flights to assemble and operate a mini space station near the moon. called the gateway.

“Soon we will return to the moon as Artemis,” Nelson said Monday. “We’re going to learn to live and work in a harsh environment, and then it’s Mars in the late 2030s. President Biden’s proposed $26 billion budget for NASA will start to do that. »

The budget proposal now goes to Congress, which is responsible for writing NASA’s budget each year.

The nearly $7.5 billion for the Artemis program in the White House budget request includes about $1.5 billion for development work on human-rated lunar landers.

The lander program is a central part of the Artemis effort. The giant lunar rocket of the Artemis program, the space launch system, is almost ready for its first test flight, named Artemis 1. The Orion spacecraft designed to transport astronauts between Earth and lunar orbit makes its first trip into deep space on the Artemis 1 mission.

A follow-up mission in 2024, named Artemis 2, will carry four astronauts around the moon and back to Earth.

NASA’s Space Launch System on pad 39B for a wet dress rehearsal, with the crawler transporter that transported it from the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

The Artemis 3 mission will include the program’s first moon landing attempt. An Orion spacecraft will connect to SpaceX’s Starship landing vehicle orbiting the moon, then the craft will ferry the crew to the moon’s surface. The commercial rocket will then send the astronauts back into space to join the Orion spacecraft for the return trip to Earth.

NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract last April to develop a lunar lander version of its Starship rocket, a reusable launch system intended to eventually replace the Falcon family of rockets and spacecraft. SpaceX Dragon. The Starship lander is over 160 feet (about 50 meters) tall, and crews will ride an elevator from the ship’s cabin to the lunar surface.

Under SpaceX’s initial contract, called “Option A” by NASA, the company will develop the Starship lander and perform two lunar landing test flights, one without astronauts and one with a crew on the Artemis 3 mission. .

NASA wanted to choose more than one lunar lander supplier last year, but officials said the budget passed by Congress did not provide enough funds to pay two companies. NASA selected SpaceX, which offered the cheapest lander option, over proposals from Dynetics and an industry team led by Blue Origin, Jeff Bezos’ space company.

Blue Origin and Dynetics protested NASA’s choice of SpaceX, but the Government Accountability Office upheld NASA’s decision. Blue Origin then sued over the matter, but a federal judge ruled against Bezos’ company in November.

Last week, NASA officials said the agency would open another round of procurement for the Artemis lunar lander program and provide federal funds to support the development of a second lander option.

“As part of this new plan, this sustainable lunar development opportunity, NASA is asking American companies to come up with lander concepts capable of transporting astronauts to and from lunar orbit to the surface of the moon to missions beyond the third Artemis,” Nelson said on March 23.

NASA wants the second lander option to provide more capacity for Artemis landing missions after Artemis 3. On those flights, NASA wants to deliver more cargo to the moon — like rovers and habitats — and having astronauts stay on the surface for longer periods of time.

Along with the purchase of the Sustaining Lunar Development lander, NASA plans to negotiate a new deal with SpaceX – called “Option B” – to augment its Starship lander for missions after the Artemis 3 landing demonstration. will give SpaceX funding for a third Starship landing mission and the right to compete with the new entrant for Artemis landings later in the 2020s and 2030s.

Sustainable Lunar Development Procurement will be open to all U.S. companies except SpaceX, which will enter the new phase of the lander program as an incumbent.

Artist’s concept of a spaceship on the moon. Credit: SpaceX

The $1.5 billion for the Artemis lander program in fiscal year 2023 will go to SpaceX’s existing contract and kick-start development of follow-on landers.

The FY2023 budget request also includes nearly $2.6 billion for the Space Launch System, more than $1.3 billion for the Orion spacecraft program, and $750 million for work on ground systems at Kennedy Space Center.

The funding proposal also includes $779 million for the lunar Gateway space station and $275 million for the development of new spacesuits and lunar rovers to transport astronauts across the moon’s surface.

NASA space operations would receive nearly $4.7 billion in the budget request, including more than $3 billion for operations and transportation of crew and cargo in support of the International Space Station . Another $224 million would go to funding contracts with space companies to work on their designs for commercial space stations to eventually replace the ISS.

The funding plan would provide $1.4 billion to NASA’s Space Technology Missions Directorate.

NASA’s Science Mission Directorate is another big winner in the 2023 budget proposal. The science division would receive $8 billion next year, including nearly $3.2 billion for planetary science, funding missions like the Europa Clipper spacecraft to explore one of Jupiter’s icy moons and the Mars Sample Return robotic program to bring rocks from the Red Planet back to Earth.

The Earth Sciences Division would receive $2.4 billion in fiscal year 2023, supporting the development of a series of Earth system observation satellites to study and monitor climate, water and earth. Earth’s atmosphere.

The Astrophysics Division’s budget line includes more than $1.5 billion to pay for operations of the James Webb Space Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope, as well as the development of new missions like the Roman Nancy Grace Space Telescope.

NASA’s heliophysics programs would receive $760 million in the Biden administration’s budget proposal.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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